It’s 8:40 on a Saturday morning and I’m wearing a Michigan hoodie and yoga pants while I sip my extra strong alchemists’ blend of coffee and green tea. Tony Bennett croons through my laptop speakers and I can’t stop staring at the mini basket of mums I bought myself yesterday. It’s nice to buy yourself flowers every now and again. I just wolfed down a pumpkin spice cream cheese swirl muffin and I feel like I may vomit. My hair is tied up in a lopsided bun, my glasses teeter on the bridge of my nose, and I very well may have remnants of last nights’ drool still plastered lovingly on my cheek.
Such a pretty picture, isn’t it? God, I can’t get over what a cozy beast I am.
Nevermind the ramshackle prize that’s me, let us talk meatloaf. And no, not the weird singer. Can he even be considered a singer? Doesn’t he just stand there with his stringy hair bellowing out in some strange, half-human, half-mutant troll tongue? /shiver
Meatloaf and potatoes has to be ranked as an all-time favorite at Casa Russell. It’s got comfort food oozing all over it; and with the dreadful rainy weather being slammed on us lately it was eagerly welcomed to the table for dinner.
In the past, I’ve tried various versions of meatloaf: the standard ilk with ground beef and onions and slathered with a ketchup glaze; savorier kinds with cheese and bacon bits laced throughout; the meatloaf made with a mixture of different grounds.
They were all good and tasty but they missed that special creamy, melt-in-your-mouth quality that I yearned for in a comforting meatloaf. Most of you know by now just how persnickety I can be about varying the textures in my food to prevent chew boredom — a few sprinkles of toasted nuts or sticky dried fruit in your salad can make all the difference. But, when it comes to cold weather fodder I throw all this out the window. There’s something so nourishing about feeding yourself spoonful after spoonful of the same thing, each one tasting exactly like the other and so forth and so on until you’ve finished the entire plate. It leaves me happy and satiated.
And so, naturally, when it came time to devise a meatloaf recipe that encompassed all these things the first place I looked was Nigella Lawson’s latest cookbook, Nigella Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home. Her no-frills, no-fuss philosophy and approach to cookery rings true with mine and her delightful and wickedly delicious descriptions of things has always fascinated and excited me.
In the latter part of the book, Nigella shares a recipe called Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf, which consisted of a loaf utilizing the best ground chuck you could find, molding it around hard-boiled eggs, and then wrapping the whole gosh darn thing in bacon slices. I gawked and drooled and dreamed about it for days. Can you just imagine for a second what that looked like? I mean, I just…
Well, here, take a peek (or two).
I know, right?
In the end, my stubborn and neurotic no-recipe-following ways reared its’ ugly head and I diverted quite a ways from Nigella’s original recipe. I know you’re feigning utter shock and bewilderment but honestly I physically, can. not. follow a recipe. Ever. I’m starting to think it’s a medical condition because honestly it gives me the shakes.
I did keep the eggs, though. That’s key.
My main goal was to make sure this meatloaf was going to stay moist and silky soft throughout. What did I do to ensure that? I used 3 kinds of meats: ground chuck, ground veal, and ground pork. Also, I added butter. Little frozen squares of butter that I tucked inside the loaf to slowly melt and baste the meat within as it cooked. And when that butter started to trickle out of the loaf in the oven, I used a brush and basted the outside with it, repeatedly. Golden, luscious little baby. It gleamed and squeed. And I cried.
We ate this with garlicky mashed potatoes and went to bed happy and full. I think you should too.
Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Meatloaf recipe
Serves 8-10 meatloaf lovin’ fools
1 large yellow onion; minced very finely
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 pound ground chuck beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
About 8 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3/4 – 1 cup crushed crackers or breadcrumbs*
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter; cubed and chilled
*Typically, meatloaf recipes call for breadcrumbs to help bind the mixture together but I didn’t have any laying around. Instead, I used leftover multigrain crackers and crushed those up which I think gave the loaf a nice, nutty flavor. I’d stay away from really salty crackers though — think saltines.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Take 3 of the eggs and hard boil them. Under-cook them slightly since they will continue to cook in the oven with the meatloaf. When they’re cool, peel and set aside.
Cube 1 tablespoon of butter and stash it in the freezer to harden.
In a large fry pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss in the finely minced onions. Cook over medium-high heat until the onions have softened and yielded to submission. Drop in the anchovy and tomato paste and give it a stir until the whole thing is rosy pink. Cook for another 30 seconds and then set aside to cool.
Plop the 3 ground meats into a large, workable mixing bowl. Add the glugs of Worcestershire sauce, salt, cooled onion mixture, and the 1 raw egg to the meat. Use your finger to slightly beat the egg before using your clean hands to mix the entire meat mixture together, making sure everything is fully combined. Lastly, add the crushed crackers/bread crumbs and mix together.
Now, I know that we’ve all had the principle of not overworking the meat because it gets tough pounded, drilled, and stapled to our heads but in this case you really need to get your fingers in there and mush the crap out of it if you have any hope for the meatloaf to be one cohesive, totalitarian log of heaven when it’s done cooking.
Grab yourself a rimmed baking sheet, spray it with oil, and flatten half of the meatloaf mixture on top. Place the 3 peeled (very important that they’re peeled, what a jarring surprise for a diner otherwise) hard-boiled eggs evenly spaced over the flattened meat mixture. Then, take the chilled cubes of butter and strew them all about. Grab the other half of the meat and form it over the whole thing, pressing down firmly to make sure all is contained and there are no gaping holes.
Put it in the oven and bake for approximately 35-45 minutes, using a basting brush to bathe the meatloaf with its’ own juices every 10 minutes. The meat is done when the juices run clear and it’s perfectly golden bronze on top.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes before slicing so it has some time to seal its’ juices and firm up a bit. When you serve it, ensure everyone has their own personal aureate egg nestled within their meatloaf. It makes people feel special.