Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not your mom's meatloaf. Unless you're Brian Joos.

It's been below zero for a week and too cold in the house to type. So now that it's "warm" I have a few recipes to catch up on. First up, meatloaf. I find meatloaf can be an incredible comfort food if made correctly. Now I grew up in a house where my dad made the meatloaf, and I love you Dave, but the meatloaf was part of the reason I chose not to eat red meat for about seven years (it mostly had to do with pot roast). It was pretty basic, ground beef, egg, oatmeal, ketchup, salt and pepper. It's exactly how his mother still makes it too.

But then I was in Pittsburgh visiting my friends Brian and Mariah for something. Who knows, I was there so much I finally just moved there. So we go over to Brian's parents for dinner and I find out we are having meatloaf. I decided I'll just be really good at pushing my food around on the plate. And then I take my first bite. And then I decide that Irene Joos has changed my life with her meatloaf. I ask for the recipe. She tells it to me in exchange for a napkin folding lesson. Back-off, I have a book on it. You have weird hobbies too. And so my meatloaf is a version of Irene's, it varies every time I make, considering what I have on hand. The key is to use three different meats. Seriously. It can be bison, emu, pork, veal, beef, turkey, you name it - just mix it up. Oh, and bacon, the gateway meat. I always add it for no reason other than it's bacon.

Keep in mind, I don't really measure when I cook (baking is a different story). I try to use what I already have in the fridge so it varies a bit every time.

Irene's Meatloaf

3 lbs (ish) of ground bison, pork and veal.
2 eggs
1 handful oatmeal
2 slices (or equivalent) breadcrumbs /bread
1/2 c chopped parsley
handful fresh herbs
1/4 c ketchup (just for you, Dave!)
2 oz bacon, chopped (Redneck Bits and Pieces are rad)
handful grated parm
2 tbsp ground mustard
salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
red wine

An hour or two before you start, tear up your bread slices and toss them in a shallow pan, cover them with milk and let them sit. I used the end of a baguette I had in the freezer and two slices of wheat bread and covered them with half-and-half.

When you're ready to start cooking for reals, pre-heat your oven to 350/375, depending on where you live. In a large bowl dump all three of your meats in, and add the rest of the ingredients, minus the wine. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Just a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce will do, in this case, that's all I had left in the bottle.

If your wine bottle isn't already open do it now. Pour yourself a glass, wash and dry your hands, and then plunge them into the meat mix. If this grosses you out, you can use a spoon. I however, really enjoy mixing raw meat with my hands, it's quite relaxing. Try to break up the meat so it's evenly disbursed. If it's a bit dry, add a couple of gluggs of the wine, or if you don't like wine, a glugg or two of stock or broth. Once it's all good and mixed, dump the whole mess into a pan and mold it a bit so it looks pretty on top. Use a loaf pan like my dad, or whatever square/rectangular pan you have on hand. Don't put ketchup on top, that's like putting ketchup on a hot dog. Just wrong. You can lay slices of bacon over the top, I'll allow anything that involves bacon.

I have one rack in my oven, so I just put a large piece of foil under my pan to catch any leaks. You can do this or stick the pan on a baking sheet, or place a baking sheet on the rack underneath. Or you can live on the edge and not try to catch any drips. Put the pan in the oven, set the timer for 45 minutes. Check it, put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes or so. When it's ready, let it rest for a few minutes.

While the meatloaf is in the oven, prepare whatever else you are having. I made mashed root vegetable with goat cheese and some sauteed swiss chard with garlic. For the mashed root veg, take some sweet potatoes, yukon golds and some turnips, chop 'em up and put 'em in a big pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, cook until tender, drain. Put them back in the same pot, add a stick of butter, some minced garlic, and a log of goat cheese. Mash together. For the swiss chard, trim and cut the veg, warm up some olive oil in a pan, add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic for 30 seconds, add the swiss chard, cook for just a few minutes and at the very end, put a couple of shakes of balsamic vinegar over the top. So good.

I also made mushroom Guinness gravy to go with the mashed veg and meat. If you've ever eaten at Sean Kelly's in Missoula, you know the gravy I'm talking about. It's gravy I want to take a bath in. Or drink by itself. It's that good. And lucky for me, I have a friend who is a chef there and he hooked me up with the recipe. So easy it's silly. Take a packet of brown gravy mix, prepare according to directions, except substitute 1/2 c Guinness for 1/2 c of the water, add some chopped fresh rosemary (dried will do in a pinch) and some pepper. Pour over the meatloaf and enjoy.

Everything comes together at the end, and really it's just a great combination of flavors. The numbers I've given make enough food for 6-8. I had three people over for dinner Sunday night and still had leftovers for a few days.

So the next time it's -30 where you live, this is a great meal to make. It fills you up and the leftovers are delicious. And why cook for just yourself when you can cook for a crowd?


  1. Yum. Gosh, I want comfort food. I mean, I guess some Thai food is comfort food, but I need meat and potatoes! Miss you and look forward to cooking with you again when we aren't in exact opposite parts of the world.


  2. It's great to see another delicious variation of my mom's's one of those foundational recipes that almost everyone I know has taken to and transformed into something tasty of their own. But adding a log of goat cheese to the mash? That's just pure genius...

    1. Thanks, yo. Your mom's meatloaf really did open my eyes. I plan on using her perogie recipe on her at some point as well. If you think she'd like it, by all means share the website with her.

  3. Only you would use "rad" as a descriptor for bacon...btw, ever try bacon jam? It's genious!
    My favorite meatloaf trick is to cook mini meatloafs in muffin tins, it takes about 1/3 of the time to cook and everyone gets a piece of the crispy goodness that is the outside.

    1. Bacon jam? Are you serious? It sounds amazing, where can I get some? And yes, I've been making meatloaf muffins for years! Shelby and I started doing it when we lived together because it was so much quicker... the crunchy outside part is totally the best.

  4. I love that you're doing this!! Learned a few tricks to spice up my meatloaf...lately it's been turkey and quinoa, but I'm ready to branch out. Miss you here in Missoula!


  5. I'm still waiting to hear where to get that bacon jam...

  6. Your mother only likes meatloaf the way my mother makes it. What's a Dad to do?
    Love, dad

    1. Oh please. Just wait until my entry on pot roast...