Almost every European and Mediterranean cuisine makes forcemeat in some form or other, whether it is a terrine, pate, kibbeh or meatloaf. The type of meat or poultry and the add-ins and seasonings are all that changes. Meatloaf is a good way to stretch your meat and while I love it hot, it is also delicious as a leftover in sandwiches or even crumbled on top of pizza. And unlike with baking, you can feel free to play with the seasonings here to personalize to your and your family’s tastes. As a little girl, when my mother made meatloaf, she was something of a purist. She used no egg binder and no minced vegetables – just meat, seasoning and bacon over the top covered by chili sauce. However, she did place whole hard-boiled eggs in the middle of the loaf as a surprise for me and my siblings. While I loved her meatloaf growing up, I actually prefer my version nowadays. I do still occasionally add the hard-boiled egg as a surprise and I always use chili sauce like she did instead of ketchup.
Yield: 6-8 servings
3 pounds of ground beef or a mixture of ground veal and beef or lamb and beef. It should be 2/3 ground beef to 1/3 ground lamb or veal.
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped red, yellow or orange pepper
1/2 cup minced carrot
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of chili sauce
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
several good grinds of cracked black pepper
1 bunch, finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1.5 cups of fresh bread crumbs (about 2-3 slices – I use a multigrain bread, but any will do)
3-4 slices of bacon (If you don’t wish to use any pork product, then ask your butcher for some beef fat (suet)) to lay over the top to keep it from drying out.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 10 x 6 inch deep bread pan (This can also be made free-form in an oval, but I always use a bread pan.)
- Either by hand or in a food processor, prepare your vegetables and then saute them in the EVOO with about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt for about 3 minutes or until just softened. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and parsely to the mixture. Allow to mostly cool.
- In a large bowl (I always use either glass or stainless steel for raw meat.) add your meat, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the allspice, cracked black pepper and the beaten eggs. Mix through. (I use my hands for this. If you are squeamish, buy some nitrile or surgical gloves and put those on first and toss them when you are finished.) Now add the vegetable mixture and again mix through, breaking up any clumps.
- Pack the mixture into the oiled pan and using strips of bacon or suet, cover the top. Place the pan in a larger pan with at least 3-inch sides and add enough hot water to partially come up the sides of the pan with the meat loaf. Place this in the oven and bake for 1.5 hours.
- At the end of the baking, remove the pan from the pan with the water and carefully pour off any excess fat. Place the pan on a cooling rack and cover with a piece of parchment or foil. Place a weight (a brick or large can) on top for 30 minutes. This will consolidate the meat and make it easier to cut when it is hot. You can skip this step but if you have the time, it is nice to do.
- Remove the weight and parchment/foil and carefully turn the meat onto a cutting board. (Before you do this there might be some additional fat to pour off. It will depend on the meat you used.) Slice it and serve with additional chili sauce on the side. I like to serve meat loaf with “smashed” potatoes and broccoli with lots of garlic. Leftovers can be wrapped well and refrigerated for up to a week.