Friday, September 23, 2011

Meatloaf: The Quintessential Comfort Food

In the kingdom of comfort food, meatloaf is royalty. Rich in flavour and simple to prepare, it fills you up and makes you feel good. Whether served with mashed potatoes, eaten as a sandwich, or sliced cold for a picnic the following day, meatloaf is a wonderfully versatile and budget-friendly food. 

For great flavour, I like to start with equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal, rather than just beef alone. Combining three types of ground meat and lots of veggies, lends terrific depth and texture to this Classic Meatloaf. Don't forget slathering the top with Heinz ketchup before it goes into the oven! The tomato sauce caramelizes into the most delicious glaze, and adds a wonderful tang and subtle sweetness to this robust and flavourful 'blue-plate special'. 

However, to qualify as the ultimate comfort meal, meatloaf needs it's crowning glory — a fluffy mound of creamy buttery mashed potatoes. The gastronomic equivalent of a warm blanket, we all return to simple fare when we crave comfort. So as the weather starts to turn chilly, what better way to nourish the body and soothe the soul, than making your own favourite comfort food — whatever it may be.

Classic Meatloaf
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine

1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (can substitute onion)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp fresh or dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme
1 cup ketchup
14 oz of ground beef
14 oz ground pork 
14 oz ground veal
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large heavy skillet cook the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and scallions in butter, over medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Cover the skillet and stir occassionally until the carrots are tender, an additional 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1/3 cup of ketchup. Cook for 1 more minute. In a large bowl, combine the meats, eggs, vegetables, bread crumbs, and parsley; mix together using your hands. Transfer the mixture to a 5-by-9 inch loaf tin. Cover the loaf with remaining ketchup, and bake in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until the meatloaf is cooked through. Let cool slightly before serving with mashed potatoes.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4-6

Meatloaf needs mashed potatoes to qualify as the ultimate comfort meal. These are the tastiest, creamiest mashed potatoes and go perfectly with meatloaf. 

4 lb yukon gold or baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters 
salt and pepper 
2 cups heavy cream 
3 tbsp butter 
2 tbsp chopped chives

In a large pot, bring the potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well. Heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan. Mash the potatoes well with a potato masher, or ricer, until smooth and free of chunks. Add the hot cream and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and mix well. Serve warm with meat loaf.

COOKING GADGET: Some recipes subscribe to cooking meatloaf free-form on a baking sheet, but I like to use my two-piece nonstick meatloaf pan, which bakes meatloaf to perfection, while draining fat to the outer pan during cooking. The results — a leaner, healthier dinner, saving calories and making cleanup a breeze. 

My wonderful 'Anolon' Nonstick Meat Loaf Pans