Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My favorite meatloaf

This column first ran in June 2004.

There were many favorite meals at my mama’s house, but there are few I enjoyed more than her meat loaf.

Mama’s meat loaf was always loosely formed, not packed tight like a hamburger, and was topped with tangy tomato sauce. She often added chunks of Irish potatoes or sweet potatoes around the edge of the pan that cooked alongside the meat loaf, mingling with the beef juices and tomato sauce. I loved this meal dearly.

As a child, I knew she was making meat loaf for supper when I saw slices of white bread on the table, getting stale enough to make bread crumbs. Later I’d watch her take off her wedding rings before she worked in the ground beef, milk, eggs and bread crumbs with her hands.

When Mama made meat loaf, she usually divided it into two parts, one small loaf made without green bell pepper for my sister, and one made with finely chopped bell pepper for the rest of us.

On lists of comfort foods, meat loaf is often at the top of the list, and I agree.

I often make meat loaf for my family after a tough week at work or school or during an especially cold spell in the winter. But it was Father’s Day that caused me to pull out my recipe most recently. In talking about how to celebrate the day, I asked my husband if meat loaf, mashed potatoes and his favorite green salad with mandarin oranges was a good idea for Sunday lunch. He heartily said yes.

My recipe is not much different from my mother’s. But because I could never make mine taste just like hers, I gave up trying and came up with my own, combining recipes from different places until I hit on our favorite combination. I also make sure not to pack it tight, but to make a loosely formed loaf, just like Mama’s.

My family’s favorite part of my meatloaf is the ketchup and brown sugar sauce I put on top. It’s wonderfully tangy and sweet at the same time. When making the recipe, I’ll often bump up the ingredients to have more sauce.

I have wonderful memories of eating meatloaf for Sunday lunch at Mama’s. I think that’s one reason why it’s so important to me to make it for my husband and children; I want them to have similar memories of that wonderful aroma and the taste treat of meat and potatoes.

Lisa’s Favorite Meat Loaf
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground round (I’ve also used ground chuck)
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
Combine ground round, onion, eggs and salt. Mix together with ketchup, milk and bread crumbs. (I make bread crumbs with stale white bread shredded on a hand-held cheese grater.) Make sure the loaf is plenty moist, adding more milk and ketchup if necessary.

Form into a loose, long loaf that almost fills a 9X11-inch dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and drain fat with a spoon.

Spread mixture of ketchup and brown sugar and bake 10 more minutes until ketchup mixture is bubbly.

*Note: When making this meat loaf, I often vary amount of ingredients to make a larger or smaller loaf. I also make a little more sauce because we love it so much. This meatloaf is wonderful with mashed potatoes and field peas.

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