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anita’s meatloaf

March 17, 2020

Did you ever mean to type “meatloaf” but you type “meatload” instead?

I think this is why most people don’t like meatloaf.
Not because of a typo.
Because most meatloaf is just a meatload. Dense, dry, almost painful to eat. Flavorless. Just a load of meat. Without oats or breadcrumbs to bind, veggies to add textural interest, moisture in the form of some condiments inside the loaf, and onions and garlic for flavor, meatloaf can be downright unpleasant.

This meatloaf is different. It is everything I like – sweet, savory, and filling. The meat is kept moist by condiments. Of course, you can use a classic ketchup, but I love the complexity of barbecue sauce, apricot jam, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or mustard.

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my version:

– saute carrots on a med-high heat
– after a while, add minced onions, sour apples, peppers, or whatever you have
– when caramelized, add garlic. turn off the heat when everything is caramelized.
– separately, in a large bowl, add
+ a pound of ground chicken to a half a pound of pork or very fatty beef (like 75/25)
+ a large egg or two small eggs
+ breadcrumbs (maybe a half-cup or so; can use oats, gluten-free cracker crumbs, or anything similar)
+ apricot jam, unsweetened applesauce, mustard, or barbecue sauce to taste. more than you’d think, around a half-cup
+ something savory, like a few drops of fish sauce or worcestershire sauce
+ a handful of dried fruit (apricots, raisins, whatever) and chopped nuts (whatever you have, pistachio or almond)
+ spices – lots of garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground black pepper – or get creative!

my mom’s version:

“I don’t actually have a recipe for the one I make at home frequently…..it’s just a lb. of ground chicken (I like it better than turkey), an egg, about a cup of bread crumbs, about ½ to 1 c. of BBQ sauce to which I add a few chopped dried cranberries and commonly a couple of pinches of smoked paprika. – all of which I mix with sautéed and cooled: ½ large or 1 medium finely chopped onion (sautéed until translucent), 1 or 2 finely chopped celery stalks, and a few finely chopped carrots. I do it differently depending on what I have in the house. In the past I’ve substituted Saucy Susan for the BBQ sauce and I’ve added sautéed sweet potatoes. I bake it in a moderate oven for about 40 min. If I have bacon in the house, I’ll lay that on top before baking.” -Anita

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WHAT TEMPERATURE?

325 = ina garten, alton brown

350 = ellie at food network, betty crocker, spend with pennies, the neelys, brown eyed baker

375 = paula deen

400 = mar-mar-stew-stew, the kansas beef council

425 = bobby flay

if you like a soft meatloaf, go with a lower temperature. if you like a crust, go for a higher temperature. as you can see, everyone has a different preference, and there is no “wrong” temperature for a meatloaf!

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MEATLOAF TIPS:
– DON’T OVERMIX! #1 easiest way to mess up a meatloaf. think of it like a burger – it’ll get weird if you smush it too much.
– let it rest after pulling it from the oven, like a steak or any other meat. cutting it too early will encourage the juices to leave, making a dry meatloaf.
– like the crust the best? form the meatloaf free-form on a baking sheet. you get crust on the top and sides, too! make sure to bump up the oven temp to 400.
– hate the crust? make it in a loaf pan, and leave the heat low, like 325.
– watching your calories? DON’T go with 100% lean turkey meat without at least a little fat, or it will come out dense. you can still make a very healthy meatloaf with just a bit of beef.
– if you’re making it super lean, you can soak bread in milk or veggie stock, and use that instead of breadcrumbs to bind the loaf. that will help keep it from drying out.
– think of texture when you’re planning the veggies. roasted sweet potato adds moisture, nuts and seeds add crunchy textural interest. caramelize some carrots, and leave some less cooked for the consistency.
– don’t skimp on the sauteed veggies! they add moisture, flavor, and texture!
– pan-fry slices of leftover meatloaf for an amazing sandwich.
(tips from my own experience, and bread-soaking tip from the today show)

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE SWEET?
– instead of apricot jam, use mustard, worcestershire, a little fish paste and hot sauce, or another savory condiment. leave out the dried fruit.
– substitute carrots and apples with more savory vegetables, like fennel, cauliflower, grated cabbage, or mushrooms.
– use savory spices. this recipe is totally flexible, and just as good with cumin and chipotle as with smoked paprika and thyme, or hot chilis and green onions. get creative!

MIX IT UP:
– caramelize onions in cider vinegar or a splash of apple juice or honey for sweetness – or add a pinch of baking soda to get them to caramelize faster, according to cook’s illustrated
– go with a theme for the seasoning. curry powder, cashews, and apples? thyme, dijon mustard, and sausage? roasted poblanos, jalapenos, bell peppers, and chili powder for a four-pepper meatloaf? moroccan spice blend? peanuts and sweet potatoes? oregano, thyme, basil, and a little spaghetti sauce? the only limit is your imagination!
– replace some of the ground chicken with ground turkey. replace the ground pork with ground beef or sausage. replace some of the chicken with sauteed mushrooms.
– cook’s illustrated turkey meatloaf calls for a half-cup of grated Parmesan and 3T melted butter mixed into the turkey meat for texture and flavor – but they say never use 99% lean meat, as it will become “pasty” or “mushy and compact” when cooked – they recommend 85% lean

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How does your family make their meatloaf?

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