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(Meat)Loafing Around

25 Jan

I love meatloaf. It is probably one of my favorite things to eat, and not just for dinner. I love a nice meatloaf sandwich for lunch the day after, either cold on some rye bread, or warm as an open-faced sandwich with some gravy on it. Either way, it’s good with me. I was really looking forward to making this meal of Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, and Corn.

I’m sure everyone has their own meatloaf recipe that they swear by. I actually have 3 or 4 different recipes that I use, depending on what I feel like having. Sometimes I wrap the meatloaf in slices of bacon, sometimes I use sautéed vegetables in the ingredients and sometimes I hollow out a loaf of Italian bread and bake the meatloaf inside it. Any of them are good recipes to use, but for today I am just going to make the standard meatloaf that I make. There’s nothing hard or fancy about it, it doesn’t take very long to make and you could even double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.

Meatloaf

1 pound meatloaf mix (this is a mix of beef, pork and veal that you can get at most grocery stores)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery salt

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder (or you could use 1 onion, chopped fine and sautéed)

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or dried, if you’re using store-bough)

1 large egg

1/2 cup ketchup

Tomato paste

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the meatloaf mix, dry mustard, celery salt, Worcestershire, oregano, pepper and onion powder  until evenly blended. Add in the breadcrumbs and egg and mix again until blended, then add in the ketchup and mix again (I mix this all by hand to really work things in. It’s messy, but the results are worth it). Form the mixture into a free-form loaf onto a foil lined baking sheet. Coat the mixture with tomato paste (as much or as little as desired. I use more to get a nice coating on it). Bake the loaf for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 160 degrees. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

I have found that baking the loaf free-form results in a crustier exterior all around and tastes better than the sogginess that happens when you bake it in a loaf pan. As I said before, everyone has their own take on what they add to meatloaf. Some people use saltines in the mix with breadcrumbs, some make it spicier with Tabasco, some add bacon inside and out, some add cheese, the choice is really yours. i would love to hear how other people make meatloaf. I am always looking for a new recipe for it to try out.

Now on to another great part of having meatloaf – having the mashed potatoes with it. Nothing else seems to go better (although my Dad would tell you that french fries go better, but he ate fries with everything). Mashed potatoes, like the meatloaf, are very easy to make and don’t take a lot of time.

Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds russet potatoes (4 medium), peeled, quartered, and cut into 1-inch chunks

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup milk, hot (or half and half, whichever you prefer)

Salt and Pepper

Cover the potatoes by 1 inch of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and a fork can be slipped easily into the center, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, tossing to remove any excess water. Wipe the saucepan dry. Add the potatoes back to the pot and mash to a uniform consistency (or process through a food mill or potato ricer back into the dry pot. Using a flexible rubber spatula, fold in the melted butter until just incorporated. Fold in 3/4 of the milk, adding the remaining 1/4 as needed to adjust the consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I always used to mash the potatoes by hand or use a mixer until I started using the potato ricer and I am glad I did. The potatoes don’t get the air into them that they would get with a mixer and they become finer than mashing by hand. The result is a much denser puree that tastes better, in my opinion.

The gravy recipe I am using is the same one I used earlier in the week for the turkey meatballs. Actually, I am just using the same exact gravy since we have it left over, so that makes it simple for me. I’ll post the recipe here again or you can check out Monday’s blog if you would like to see the whole thing.

All Purpose Gravy

3 tablespoons butter

1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

1 onion, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth (used canned, box or your own. I am using my own because I have it. otherwise, use low sodium)

2 cups beef broth (same as the chicken. i don’t have my own right now, so I am using Swanson’s low sodium)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

5 whole black peppercorns

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until softened and well browned, about 9 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly browned, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broths and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20-25 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface.

Pour the gravy through a fine-mesh strainer (or gravy separator) into a clean saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

You can make the gravy ahead of time and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 2 months. Just re-heat it over low heat, stirring to recombine, until warm and smooth.

That just leaves the corn for tonight’s dinner. I am just using frozen corn kernels tonight, since you can’t get good corn here this time of year. The frozen kernels taste fine (better than the frozen cobs do, I think. Sean disagrees with me and loves the frozen corn on the cob) and take no time at all to make. Nowadays, you can but the steamer bags for your microwave and cook them that way in about 5-7 minutes.

Gee, we’ve really gotten good at making these easy dinners, haven’t we? Nice, simple dinners make the weeknights so much better after a long day of work and an afternoon of doing homework. it’s great that there are so many meals we can make either ahead of time or in practically no time at all. I’d love to hear some input or ideas on some other quick meals that can be made. if you have any, please feel free to share. Tomorrow is supposed to be fish day if I can get to the market to check out the fish. If not, we’ll be substituting the Warm Chicken Salad into tomorrow. It’s Michelle’s pick and one that we like to make often (another quick, easy meal, or lunch for that matter). Until then, enjoy your evening and see you tomorrow!

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10 Comments

Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Gravy, Potatoes, Uncategorized, Vegetables

 

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