Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quest for the Perfect Meatloaf Recipe

It should be of no surprise to anyone that the term “gourmet meatloaf recipe” appears nowhere in any cookbook. And yet, that was exactly what I found myself trying to find just two weeks ago.

Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up needing to cook up several pounds of ground meat. It started with my wife. She wanted to make meatloaf and so pulled a four pound package of ground beef out of the freezer to thaw.

That a lot of meat for one meatloaf. She assured me she wasn't going to use all of it for meatloaf, but that she would, indeed, be cooking.

After four days she still hadn't made any meatloaf and I had four pound of thawed ground beef sitting in my refrigerator.

This was no surprise to me, of course. My wife always has great ideas that involve cooking. The trouble begins after it leaves the freezer. Or the shelf. Or the refrigerator. Or the store. She may want to make something that requires more than a few minutes in the microwave, but when it comes to actually doing it, her follow through is a little poor.

This time, I was just as forgetful. I'd gotten some frozen ground turkey and ground elk meat from my brother during the same time. By the time I'd gotten home with the goods, I'd forgotten about them. They spent several hours thawing in the car trunk. Fortunately it was cold day so none of it had completely thawed, but most of it was softening enough I didn't want to try and refreeze it.

So, between my wife and I we had seven pounds of meat we needed to use. Fast.

Two pounds we browned and froze for use in sauces and soups, later. The other five we turned into meatloaf.

Over a period of five days I cooked, and ate, three different meatloaf recipes. I'm so sick of meatloaf I can barely blog about it.

The results were varied, ranging from surprisingly good, to just passable. I made most of them with a mixture of ground beef and chicken. I like how the chicken lightened the flavor of the beef. One was a mixture of elk and chicken. The rich flavor of the elk meat lent quite a nice touch to an otherwise bland recipe.

The recipes came from four different sources:

Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbooks
Mormon Cooking Authentic Recipes
Mormon Family Cookbook
Favorite Brand Name 4 Ingredient Cookbook

I found a fifth meatloaf recipe in the Lion House Classics cookbook, but the recipe seemed so bland I didn't try it.

None of them included ground chicken or elk, but that's what I had on hand so, I used it.

The family favorite turned out to be the cheese stuffed meatloaf recipe from the 4 Ingredient Cookbook. I thought it was good, but I've got some ideas on how to make it even better. As soon as I can get myself to cook meatloaf again, I'll share them with you. Assuming they turns into a truly gourmet meatloaf.

Photo by Peter Hellebrand

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Maree said...

I'm a new follower of your blog, and I LOVE the recipes. We have a meatloaf recipe that we RAVE about--it's from Alton Brown's show, Good Eats. He grinds his own meat--we don't go that far. It's very tasty. If you can bear to ever eat meatloaf again: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-meat-loaf-recipe/index.html

John Newman said...

Thanks, Maree! It's good to meet you. Thanks for the meatloaf link, too. My brain is telling me that the glaze will make it amazing.

The Peanut Butter Boy said...

Might I suggest a delicious and moist yet extremely healthy meatloaf?

Mom's Turkey Meatloaf, from Ellie Krieger on the Food Network. I don't like to follow recipes but I followed this one exactly and love it every time. The only thing you should add/change is the spices, definitely some salt, but a few seasonings and this is the tastiest/healthiest meatloaf around!

Elias said...

I love the 4 ingredient meatloaf recipe. It's actually MY biggest hit. I don't have the book handy, nor is it easily accessible since I'm in South Korea, but do you by any chance have the recipe handy.
I'm trying to make it this upcoming weekend.

Elias said...

I found the recipe incidentally.
Here's it is for the FABULOUS meatloaf that is sure to bring a smile to anyone's face.

Prep time: 20 minutes; Cook time: 1 hour; Serves 6
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 jar (26-28 ounces) Chunky Gardenstyle Pasta Sauce
1 large egg slightly beaten
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (you can use a little less of the dry if you don't have fresh)
Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine ground beef, 1/3 cup pasta sauce, egg and bread crumbs. Season, if desired, with salt and ground black pepper. In 13x9-inch baking dish or roasting pan, shape into 12x8-inch rectangle.
Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups cheese and parsley down center leaving 3/4-inch border. Roll, starting at long end (the 12 inch side, not the 8 inch side), jelly-roll style. Press ends together to seal. (TIP: Molding the meat mixture onto waxed paper helps make rolling easier. Just lift waxed paper to curl the meat over cheese filling then carefully remove meat from paper. Continue rolling in this manner until filling is enclosed in roll and meat is off paper. You can then reposition the meat to the center of the pan if needed before cooking.)
Bake uncovered 45 minutes. Pour remaining sauce over meat loaf and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese (I usually add more cheese myself). Bake an additional 15 minutes or until sauce is heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I vary the meatloaf recipe by using 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound ground turkey. I up the cheese and pasta sauce a little to account for the extra 1/2 pound of meat, but the rest of the recipe I pretty much leave the same. I do add about 10-20 minutes cooking time as well though to make sure it's cooked thru.

John Newman said...

I'm glad you found the recipe, Elias! In our family we substitute quick cook oats for the bread crumbs, and cheddar for the mozzarella. We actually lower the sauce amount at the end, opting to save some to pour over it at table side.