Every three or four weeks, she’ll say, “It’s time for a meatloaf.”
A few years ago, through my addiction to reading cookbooks and a trial-and-error period, I developed my own special meatloaf recipe. It’s become my most requested “please bring” item for gatherings. More than one satisfied eater has commented it tastes like a cheeseburger (even when I haven’t included any cheese). Wherever I take it, I usually come home with an empty pan. But when it’s just Mom and me, meatloaf can linger a few days. Even though she mainly likes it just-out-of-the-oven hot (and a small portion at that), she doesn’t like for me to make a small (8 by 8 inch or so) meatloaf. She says if you’re going to the effort to make a meatloaf, you might as well make a “full-sized” run (a 9 by 13 inch pan).
I don’t argue much about that because, while I enjoy good, hot meatloaf with a couple of sides for lunch or dinner, I much prefer leftover meatloaf. For sandwiches.
And that’s where I’ve recently learned I can instantly start a heated debate with friends and family. Hot or cold? I can’t believe it’s even a serious question. A meatloaf sandwich, of course, is made with cold meatloaf, straight outta the fridge. On white “loaf bread.” (As an adult looking back, I realize the incongruity of a bag of sliced bread being called “loaf bread’). With a healthy schmear of Duke’s. And that’s the perfect meatloaf sandwich.
But I’ve learned some people, even members of my own family, slice the cold meatloaf and FRY it before making a sandwich. And they use all sorts of condiments and trimmings. And don’t even care what kind of bread they use. My unscientific survey has concluded these same folks fry SPAM. I like my SPAM chilled. I eat it just out of the can at room temperature. But I can’t do fried. A coworker once exclaimed “You eat RAW SPAM?!”
To each his own, I suppose. How do you like your leftover meatloaf? What about SPAM?
When asked for my meatloaf recipe, I try to share. Really I do, But, unfortunately, I was raised by “eyeball it” cooks. So it’s hard to explain exactly how to make it. And I guess that’s why sometimes it doesn’t turn out quite up to par. But I can offer a few tips:
• I use ground beef and for meatloaf “lean ain’t keen.” I’ve learned never to use meat that’s less than 20 percent lean (I typically buy a 2.25 lb. package of 80/20 ground beef).
• I enjoy meatloaf made with rice or oatmeal as the binding agent, but my special recipe uses store-bought fine bread crumbs (non-flavored).
• If I have any “secret ingredients” they are: dill relish (Mt. Ida’s is my choice and do not drain); molasses (Grandma’s brand, mild); and half-and-half. At least these are the three things that raise the most eyebrows and side-eyes when I tell someone what goes in it. I do sometimes incorporate shredded sharp cheddar, usually at Mom’s request.
• One must mix meatloaf with one’s hands. Do not attempt to use a utensil. Just dig in there.
• Onions and green peppers should be chopped and sauteed. But I have found an easy shortcut: buy them frozen, thaw and drain.
• I think one reason people like my meatloaf is because it is sweet, especially the glaze: brown sugar, ketchup and a smidgen of prepared mustard.
• Cover the meatloaf when baking. Drain excess fat before serving and especially before refrigerating your leftovers. (Of course, if you’re going to fry it, I guess that grease could be an advantage.)