The Recipe: Meatloaf cooked in a cast iron skillet, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that texture-wise, "melt" into the meatloaf. This is my go-to recipe for meatloaf, the one I make again and again. Great for meatloaf sandwiches? You bet!
The Conversation: Would you / do you / serve meatloaf for company?
THANK YOU, MEATLOAF!
Last fall, we invited some people to dinner. My dad's cousin and his wife were in St. Louis from out of town to organize a reunion between her aunt and her uncle, a sister-brother pair, the last of eleven children who grew up on a Missouri hard-scrabble farm.
Now know this. Naomi, the aunt, is in her 80s, and Melburne, the uncle, he's 97!! Both are spry and definitely living the good life but I really struggled with what to make.
It turned out that we had such a good time that night. I swear, the meatloaf had something to do with it!
You see, when we sat down that night to a simple weeknight dinner of meatloaf, potatoes and green beans, Naomi flashed a big, big smile – "thrilled" might not be an overstatement. She told us, "This is my very favorite meal!" She even wondered if her niece had secretly told me about her favorites!
But it was just my good luck – and maybe good meatloaf! Meatloaf to the rescue!
CAST IRON MEATLOAF
Time to table: 2 hours
(easy to halve; better yet, make one for dinner, another for the freezer)
- 1 slice fresh bread (or enough to yield 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs)
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 carrot, trimmed & peeled
- 1 rib celery, trimmed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup parsley or other fresh herbs
- 1/2 cup “something else” – another vegetable, leftover rice, leftover vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes, etc.
- 3 large eggs
- 2 pounds lean ground meat
- 1 cup grated parmesan or another dry-ish cheese
- 1/3 cup marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Chopped Vegetables
- Bread Crumbs, squeezed hard to remove liquid
- 1 cup marinara sauce
Set oven to 375F/190C. Get out a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet or another oven-safe skillet.
BREAD CRUMBS In a small food processor, blitz bread to form soft, loose crumbs. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk, let soak at room temperature.
VEGETABLES In the same food processor, chop the vegetables until fine. Set aside.
MEAT MIXTURE In a large bowl, one big enough to really get your hands into, whisk the eggs, add the eggs, parmesan, 1/3 cup marinara, salt, oregano and pepper. Add the Chopped Vegetables and squeezed Bread Crumbs.
With your hands, mix all the ingredients, really working the mixture to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
BAKE (COVERED) Gently pack (without pressing hard) the mixture into the skillet. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 1 hour.
BAKE (UNCOVERED) Spread 1 cup marinara across the top. Return to the oven uncovered until meat reaches 160F/70C or is cooked through, 15 - 30 minutes.
REST (COVERED) Remove meatloaf from oven, cover with foil and let rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.
TO SERVE Serve hot with mashed potatoes and green beans.
OR GO "DELUXE" Or hey – I haven't thought of this in years but not can't get it out of my brain – go for my childhood favorite, "The Deluxe". Meatloaf mashed into a big pile with mashed potatoes, canned creamed corn and hmm, maybe some cottage cheese cheese too. Mmmm but just a suggestion.
Let's Talk Meatloaf
So yeah, sure, many people do love meatloaf. But isn't meatloaf, y'know, kind of every-day food? not something to serve to company?
I had such good luck serving meatloaf to our guests last fall, maybe I'm missing something. Where does meatloaf fall in your meal planning, what do you think?!
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