Wish Upon A Dish: Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes 101

November 3, 2010

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes 101

Ask The Nudge what he wants for dinner and he will most instantly say (with a little smile on his face) "Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and Lima beans".

Oh yes.....I could bet the proverbial 'farm' on it.

There's no doubt that meatloaf is a comforting dish. And tinkering with someones idea of the perfect comfort food can be tricky.

The most familiar meatloaf tends to be dry, bland, and boring. The Nudge tried a meatloaf meal at a Cracker Barrel in North Carolina, and almost did not eat it. Meatloaves in diner's can be horrible. They load the gravy on it so it hides the texture and taste of the loaf itself. YUCK!

You want a moist and tender meatloaf, but at the same time you also want a good balance of flavors. Meatloaf needs to be flavorful, but in a subtle way; no one wants or expects to be knocked back by a wallop of garlic or a kick of jalapeƱo.

Fortunately, a delicious, moist meatloaf that wouldn't betray too many good childhood memories wasn't hard to conceive. I add judicious amounts of everyday ingredients: mustard, ketchup, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. For a mellower flavor, I minced the onion and a little bit of garlic and soaked them in ice water.
Mix the ingredients until just combined. Your hands are the best tools for mixing thoroughly yet gently. To bind the meatloaf, I decided to use fresh breadcrumbs and, of course, an egg. Many old cookbooks call for using a slice of white bread soaked in milk in place of breadcrumbs, but I found those meatloaves turn out very crumbly; I like the even slices I get from this breadcrumb-bound version.

Perhaps most important, I was careful to mix the ingredients gently until just combined; over mixing would compact the meat too much, giving it more of a terrine-like texture.

The whole idea behind a meatloaf was economics. Cheap meat, plenty of it, with the bread to stretch it and a great vehicle for gravy.

I have added some quick oats or millet for extra fiber and nutrients, once I added bacon and I even made a turkey meatloaf, but when it comes right down to it, I make this recipe for meatloaf for the sandwiches the next day. I love a thick slice of meatloaf on white bread with mayonnaise. Yes, it isn't good for me, but no, I will not stop eating it (only 2x a year).

My meatloaf is a very simple, easy to prepare, moist and flavorful recipe.

Basic Meatloaf
Makes 6 - 1" slices
* 1 1/2 pound 80% ground meat
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1 tablespoon brown mustard
* 1 teaspoon ground thyme
* salt and pepper
* 2 slices country bread, processed
* 2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, soaked in ice water
* 1 tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and mix well, careful not to over work the meat.
Once everything is mixed, stop.

Form a loaf shape in a baking pan or use a aluminum loaf pan as a form and turn over into a baking pan. You need to bake a meatloaf in a large pan so the outside gets browned all over.

Set oven to 375F and bake 1 hour 15 minutes. You will smell it and it will be golden brown and delicious.

I admit that I use the Knorr Basic Brown Gravy mix.
No fat (so no cholesterol), 20 calories and less then a gram of sugar is why.....and it tastes good.

I use the America's Test Kitchen's method of cooking potatoes for mashies. You can also do this with sweet potatoes, omitting the cream (good for any diet).

I steam 3 large Idaho potatoes, cubed, with 1 large garlic clove for 25 minutes. They are perfect every time. Remove the steamer, dump the water and use the same pan to melt a tablespoon of butter and heat 1 cup of heavy cream, add salt & pepper.
Using my RSVP ricer (you have got to buy this ricer, NOW) I riced the potatoes right into the pan. I added more cream to get the perfect consistency, tasted for seasonings, Scoped them into a bowl, covered with a damp paper towel and stored in the microwave till dinner.

Before serving I will nuke them for 2 minutes, place another pat of butter on top and The Nudge will have the best mashed potatoes ever....seriously!

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