Meat Loaf

Meat loaf

I’ve had several different kinds of meat loaf and I like them all (no comment on the musical variety). I think it is one of those fundamentally simple dishes that can take a lot of punishment–which is why I can make it. The recipe I use, adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen, is long on flavor and short on structural integrity (following the actual recipe more closely would probably help). The secret ingredient is the glaze, which also happens to be the only part of the dish you can taste before you bake it. (The other secret ingredient, I think, is the high quality (but expensive) grass-fed cruelty-free hipster-glasses-wearing swaddled-and-coddled ground beef.)

Meat Loaf
1 lb ground beef
1 small-to-medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp glaze
Bread crumbs or oats, if available, pulverized in blender, about 1/2 cup
Salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, thyme

Glaze (use as many as you have)
Ketchup
Hot sauce
Mustard
Hoisin sauce
Apple cider vinegar
Brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients to taste.  The final volume should be about a quarter cup.

To make the meat loaf, pulverize the oats/bread, and pulverize or chop very finely the onion and garlic. Combine with all the other ingredients except the meat and mix together. You can alter the proportions of the glaze that goes into the bulk if you like–usually I just put some hot sauce and/or mustard in there to give it some kick, and leave the more subtle balancing-of-flavors glaze mixture for the topping. Then mix in the meat, just so as to evenly distribute the ingredients while working the meat as little as possible.

Put the meat loaf in a greased loaf pan and then pour the rest of the glaze over the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, then turn up the heat to 450 for 10 minutes more to brown the glaze.

More meat loaf

Postscript: There is an argument to be made, when in possession of delicious and expensive ground meat, for just eating the meat directly, in hamburger form, so as to get the most of the delicious meaty flavor, and leaving meat loaf for the job of improving the less-desirable meats. Frequently, we do just that (eat hamburgers, I mean), but I think it is also worth remembering what meat loaf was invented for (I think): in olden days, when times were tough and people were poor, the goal was to stretch what meat you could afford over as many meals as possible. Meat loaf does this admirably–and as there is no question that meatiness is the dominant essence of this dish, the ground beef is certainly not being wasted. I put it to you, therefore, that because of the very fact that this beef is delicious and expensive, that meat loaf is its ideal use.

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