Reclaiming Meatloaf and Reviewing Pâté

Anthony Bourdain notes that meatloaf is a not-too-distant relative of Pâté. I think culinary students call it "forcemeat" the skills used to make terrines and pates. I'm guessing they don't do meatloaf at the CIA. But you know as well as I do that a good meatloaf would not be spurned by most CIA grads.

What can the humble meatloaf tell us about gourmet cooking? What can we learn from the making and enjoyment of this beloved comfort food?

Like a good meatball, indeed like most anything you set out to cook or create in your kitchen, it comes down to two things: quality ingredients and proper techniques. Good foundation in both and you're golden whether it's a weeknight budget-stretching meal or a fancy-pants holiday party dish.

This is the difference between Wales and Georgia (the state, not the country):  You find yourself a newly-divorced single mom in Savannah and you send your boys out selling sandwiches. In Wales, it's pâté. Both Margaret Carter and Paula Deen have something else in common besides more pluck than luck. They both made a go of it under dire circumstances and developed successful businesses. Who doesn't love an underdog success story? Read about Patchwork Pâtés, here. 

Now about that meatloaf...

I love meatloaf. I never knew I was supposed to feel gypped when we got meatloaf. Never knew it was a budget stretcher or a meal with no bragging rights, always loved it. Once I made one for a friend born outside the US. As he was devouring my "gourmet food" he said, "this is really good, what do you call it again?" He had no idea how unglamorous this meal was supposed to be. Moral of the story: don't apologize for it.

Well, I'm reclaiming meatloaf. We don't have to go all Silver Palate and do the "Un, Deux, Trois" (which I actually did once!) making a loaf that is really more like a terrine of complex proportions, stacked in three layers as it was. I'm just talking about making a decent meatloaf using good culinary knowledge and technique and shamelessly enjoying the results. You don't have to break the bank to have a good meal!

Ingredient tips:

  • Lightened it by mixing ground turkey with ground beef - about 2:1.
  • Added chopped vegetables, ground flax seed, umami boosters like Maggi.
  • Glazed with a combination of ketchup and Pepper Plant garlic sauce.

Technique tips:

1. Mix lightly, as with meatballs, you want to mix it as little as possible. Less handling = more tender.

2. Form loaf on the bottom half of your broiling pan or something similar. Baking it in a loaf pan will prevent the nice crust around three sides as well as prevent the fat from draining away.

3. I moisten the breadcrumbs with grated onion, milk, egg before adding the meat. I also break up the meat as you add it to the bowl.

4. I chopped the vegetables sort of medium fine and did not parboil. They cook tender-crisp and give the meatloaf some texture. If you prefer it smoother, you can grate the veg or parcook.




The best part, other than the glazed crust, is the sandwich the next day!

  • If you want to enjoy it in an individual size, and you live in Chicago: How about Meatloaf Cupcakes? The stars of this new meatloaf specialty shop, which also sells meatloaf-shaped pies, birthday-suitable meatloaf cakes and flights of single-bite "Loafies." Meatloaf Bakery: 2464 N. Clark St (between Arlington and Deming), 773-698-6667
  • Here's another take on it: from Fine Furious Life: Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting. Clever girl.