Comfort foods. We all seem to have them and we all seem quick to characterize them, too. Try asking a group at your next gathering. You’re bound to hear: “Something warm!” “No, cold!” “It’s gotta be salty!” or sweet…smooth…crunchy…tangy…whatever that magical something is that manages to make us feel soothed. Like we’re safe, secure, and at home.
Such is the anticipated sensation when word gets out that Stacey’s meatloaf is to be served in the messhall. Vegetarians aside (who’ll have their own yummy version), most carnivores among us respond like Pavlov’s favorite subjects when the bugler blows “first call.”
And so, during these winter months when perhaps a little comfort food is called for, Stacey offers her tricks of the trade to bring some smiles to the table. Perhaps it’ll make you feel right at home, just like you’re back in the messhall at Pemi.
And now, in Stacey’s own words…
Meatloaf is an iconic American recipe that people either love or hate, with generally no in between. Since meatloaf is versatile and can be prepared in many ways, those who love it seem to have found their “perfect” recipe. As always, I stress the importance of each family’s taste profile and preferences. Use only the ingredients that they will love.
This recipe is similar to the one served at camp. The only difference is that I have pared it down considerably. We use 120 pounds of ground beef at camp for one meal!
3 pounds of ground beef. (I like ground chuck)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 cups bread crumbs
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 peppers, red or green or both, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 TBS Kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups ketchup, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
• Preheat oven to 375.
• Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions, peppers and celery until golden, add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragment and lightly colored. Set aside to cool.
• Mix ground meat, eggs, bread crumbs, milk, parsley, 1 cup of ketchup, salt and pepper. Add the cooled vegetables. It’s easiest to mix with your hands. A bit messy but you can control the mixing so much easier.
• Mold the meat mixture on a baking pan. A long, flat loaf will cook faster and more uniformly. Bake for about 45 minutes until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of at least 155. Time may vary due to your oven. At this point, remove it from the oven and pour off any fat from the baking dish.
• Mix the remaining ketchup and brown sugar and brush on the top of the meatloaf. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes.
• Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.
Meatloaf can be created from many different ingredients. Experiment and create a recipe that will please you and your family! The ground meat can be any of the following, alone, or mixed with the ground beef: ground pork, ground turkey, Italian sausage and even ground venison (if you do use venison, add a bit of pork for the fat content because venison is very lean.)
Seasonings can vary, too. Are you planning a thematic meatloaf? Once again, choose those ingredients that your family will enjoy!
Likewise with vegetables. Choose the ones that you will enjoy. The only rule is use fresh and cut into small pieces. Always sauté them. The heat will bring out the flavor and color. This is also a great sneaky way to feed those fussy eaters some veggies!
Binder is important to the meatloaf, essential for holding it all together. I use breadcrumbs. My mother used oatmeal. Some people use crushed cracker crumbs, some use whole bread or croutons. It’s your choice entirely. Just remember to even out the ratio between bread and liquid.
Enjoy experimenting. Perhaps you, too, will create that “perfect” family recipe in the process!
~ Chef Stacey