Sunday, January 9, 2011

There is a lot of bad meatloaf out there

Hi Elise,
Yesterday was Chris's birthday and we had a small, (10 people) casual, (plates on laps) party. He loves meatloaf, or he loves my meatloaf. And I've adapted that Marion Cunningham recipe almost enough to call it my own. I used to make it with sausage instead of the ground pork, and before I became concerned with how commercial pork is raised (if you can call it that) and produced, I used Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage and that made a great meatloaf. But I obviously can't do that any more and I have found the Whole Foods sausage to be of inconsistent and dubious flavor.
(I've recently been rewatching the first season of The Sopranos and at one point Tony's mother comes to a bbq at Tony's house, and as she walks up she says, "Oh, he's using mesquite. That makes the sausages taste peculiar.")
I think WF sausages taste peculiar, and can also have an off putting mouth feel.
So now I try to duplicate the Jimmy Dean sausage flavor with the WF humane ground pork.
For my famous meatloaf, I use 1.5 lbs ground pork, 1.5 lbs ground veal and about 3 lbs ground beef. I saute some onion, fennel and carrots, chopped fine in the Cuisinart. I skip the celery because basically, I'm against celery.
Then in a large bowl I mix these sauteed vegetables, the meat, about 2 C fresh bread crumbs from some good quality dense ww bread, some fennel seeds and sage (to mimic the sausage), salt and pepper, a couple TB of Worcestershire and about 1/2 C of ketchup and a cup of water. I mix it with my hands, which is sort of gross but does the job. Then, like MC I turn it out into a roasting pan, form it into a loaf and I cook it at about 425 and 1.5 hours or longer. It is really, really good.
So I plan to serve this meatloaf. The guests arrive and inevitably ask what's for dinner. When I say meatloaf, a pallor comes into the cheeks, a slight stammer develops, as they say, "m-meatloaf?" They all take a big swallow of whatever they are drinking and reach for the cheese and crackers. They are terrified of meatloaf.
I serve the meatloaf, and everyone insists an tiny pieces, "Oh, no, just a sliver for me." You would think I was serving blood sausage or scrapple. Then of course they like it, and what comes tumbling out in their heady rush of relief, is a lifetime of meatloaf trauma. Just about every guest's mother made a perfectly dreadful meatloaf. Part of me wants to ask how that is possible, but I have to admit that after a few crushing disappointments, I rarely order meatloaf in a restaurant any more. It is such an easy thing to make, the distance traveled between the taste of the ingredients and the flavor of the finished loaf is very short. I don't see how it can turn out so bad, grainy or sour or bland. Yet it does.
But not this one.
And if there are leftovers, which with 6 lbs of meat is likely, I make meatloaf oatmeal soup. I take some home made chicken broth, add some already cooked steel cut oatmeal and crumble some meatloaf in it. It is gruel of the Gods.
Love, Margaret

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