Friday, October 8, 2010

Loafing Around

Let's just preface this post with a small fact:

I make the bombdiggity of meatloafs. (Holla!)

Yes, I can just hear The Single Girl's sister out there chiming in that it's not really my recipe, but our mother's, but since I'm the one who's writing this post, I could give a tiny rat's ass. And as for the rest of you that turn your nose up at the thought of a loaf-shaped piece of meat, let me once again strap on your leash and take you for a walk down this fabulously juicy road of meatloaf heaven.

Don't worry - I'll stop for water breaks.

Meatloaf is, for all intents and purposes, a loaf of ground beef with any number of ingredients that your Mom had a knack for sneaking in. I've heard of bell pepper, tomatoes, onion soup, tomato soup, and even (gag me with a blunt and/or sharp object!) a hard boiled egg being added. For the record, my meatloaf (that's right, Sis, I said MY!) has nothing strange whatsoever. If anything, you could take these same ingredients and make the most awesome hamburgers - or hamingers as Princess 2 calls them - and die right there in your dining room chair having just ingested a heavenly piece of meat. Who knew that some eggs, crackers, ketchup, and spices could turn a dull, lifeless block of meat into something fabulous?

Several years ago when Nurse Betty was going through her divorce, she spent most every night at my kitchen table talking herself in circles about how wretched her ex was. I would call her around 4 pm each night to let her know what was on the menu and invite her over for dinner. One night, I called to let her know I was making meatloaf, and that she was more than welcome to come over. She was immediately hesitant because meatloaf has such a bad rap. (Also because her mom makes something called Scotch Eggs - see hard boiled egg reference above. The Single Girl shudders at the thought.) I assured her this was something she definitely had to try, and that if she didn't like it, I'd gladly make her something else. She came over and took one look at the bubbly, carmelized loaf and dug in.

Two slices later she was hooked.

Meatloaf is now one of the foods that we use in my house to provide comfort and warmth. Paired with baby red potatoes and some fresh green beans, this meal is hearty and is dripping with love. Both Princess and Princess 2 request this meal on a weekly basis, and although try as she might to follow the letter of the recipe, Nurse Betty feels that her meatloaf can never measure up. I have a feeling that this has to do with the pan that I cook mine in.

Don't get ahead of me, now. It's my story. Stay with me.

I said stay!

This pan is old, well used, and only used to cook meatloaf. It's Pyrex, and not a rectangle loaf pan, but oval. And I've learned that in order to avoid scrubbing it for two days straight after meatloaf night, I need to wipe down the inside edges with a paper towel before cooking and then put the empty pan in the fridge overnight after cooking. Somehow the refrigerator moistens up all the carmelized liquid and allows quick, easy cleaning the next day. It's my baby and I treasure it.

It's even got a name: Meatloaf Pan.

Original, I know. That's how I roll.

And here's where the suspenseful music starts. Ba dum.... Ba dum.... Ba dum....

I said don't get ahead of me.

This last Monday was meatloaf night. It's been a tradition through the years that once the youngest child is old enough and strong enough, they become the official meatloaf squisher. So, when Princess came of age - 5 years old - I taught her how to squish the meatloaf. She's done it ever since and relishes the privilege.

As usual on Monday night, I added all the ingredients to the pan and Princess squished the loaf while I talked on the phone to my mom. I was in the other room talking to her when I heard CRASH! BREAK! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! coming from the kitchen.

"Uh oh, gotta go", I yelled to my mom and went running into the kitchen, only to find an uncooked meatloaf and my precious glass pan splayed all over my clean kitchen floor. And Princess was in tears. The pan had slipped out of her hands as she was putting it into the oven to cook.

"I've ruined dinner! I've wasted money! The meatloaf pan is broken! What are we gonna do now?!?", she wailed. I tried to comfort her as much as I could and shuffle her out of the shards of glass mixed with raw ketchup-cracker-egg-meat.

Glass was everywhere. My precious pan! What was I going to do without that pan?

It took 30 minutes and a canister of Clorox wipes to clean up the shards of meat glass. In the end, we ate scrambled eggs and toast, enjoyed a peaceful evening together, and laughed about the pile of meatloaf on the kitchen floor. I've yet to find another pan that will suit my meatloaf recipe, and the search continues. Until then, boys and girls, I leave you with the recipe for "This Will Change Your Life Meatloaf", also known as "Bombdiggity Meatloaf" and "OMFG This Meatloaf Rocks The Kasbah".

The Single Girl's Mother's Meatloaf
1 1/2 lbs 80% Lean Ground Beef
About 1/3 c Ketchup (or more, if you like your loaf juicy)
2 eggs
About 15 (or so) Saltine or Ritz Crackers (any buttery, salty cracker will do)
Garlic Salt (ummm....about a tsp?)
Salt (who the heck knows...enough to make it salty?)
Pepper (see above)
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (optional for wusses)

Mix all together in loaf pan with hands, since they are the best tools that God ever gave you. Form into loaf and wipe down inside of pan where meat mixture has smeared the pan. Put into preheated oven at 400 degrees for approximately 30-45 minutes. (I'm not entirely sure of the exact time, since I base this entire recipe on "a dash of this, a dash of that" haphazardness.)

Simply look for three characteristics of the meatloaf which tell you that the sucker is done:

First, there should be a dark carmelization and crust on the top of the loaf. (I don't mean charred.)

Second, you should see that the loaf is bubbling away in its own juices. It's not gross, really. I swear.

Third, if you're still not sure, pull your meat out (Ha! You knew I was going to go there.) and slice into the center. If you still see pink like a raw hamburger, it's not done. Put it back in the oven and go sit your happy ass back down. If it isn't pink, then it's done.

Now here's the important part: don't eat it right away after pulling it out of the oven. Let those juices redistribute back into the loaf, which they will do magically. Give it 10 minutes or so to undergo this process. When the 10 minutes are up, slice into that bad boy. We eat our loaf with a gallon of ketchup for dipping.

Trust me, it's stupid-good.

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