Adventures in Home Cooking: Cheesy Meatloaf

I had been wanting to cook something new for a while; I’ve been trying to eat healthy lately and it’s meant a lot of skinless chicken breasts and salmon fillets. I scoured Julia Child’s recipes, consulted my Jacques Pepin, checked to see if we had brandy, artichokes, or swiss chard, and was this close to seeing how much a tank of liquid nitrogen for frozen tomato puree pellets would cost when Tony casually mentioned how much he loved meatloaf growing up. Huh, meatloaf? That sounds complicated.

Meatloaf has never been in my top 10 meals. Too many bland, grey slices were served to me in my elementary school cafeteria, so the thought of meatloaf made me recoil. But, I was game to finding a great recipe, so again, I started overthinking it. The internet has thousands of recipes and consulting “Cooks Illustrated” made me think I needed a degree in Engineering before I even pre-heated the oven. Luckily, my first cookbook, “How to Boil Water” (2006, Meredith Books) had a recipe that was irresistible. I mean, bacon is the first ingredient for crying out loud!:

Preheat oven to 400°

2 slices Bacon

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

large handful of parsley leaves

1 large egg

1tbsp dijon mustard/ 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1tsp kosher salt/1/2 tsp course black pepper

2 lbs ground chuck

8 oz shredded cheddar

1/4 cup ketchup (all ingredient and directions from How to Boil Water, pg. 162)

This is not a recipe for the weight-conscious. You start by crisping the slices of bacon on the stove. Once they’re extra crispy, you take them off and cook the chopped onion and garlic in the remaining bacon fat.  Make sure to crumble up the bacon when its cool.

Then, whisk the worcestershire, egg, mustard, salt and black pepper together in a large bowl. You’ll need it, because you’ll then need to add the beef, bacon crumbles, chopped parsley, and cheese to the bowl. This was the grossest part for me, I’ve never been one to get my hands messy, which is why I may never really be a great cook,  but you’ll need your hands to get the mix nice and even.

Put the meatloaf mix onto a foil-wrapped baking sheet with a high lip (there’ll be lots of oil you’ll need to catch) and pat into a loaf. My loaf reminded me a bit of our cat Spud when he hides under the covers. Since he’s a bit of a tubby cat, we’ve nicknamed him “Lumpkin,” so this meatloaf was more of a meat Lumpkin.

Cook for 45 minutes, then take out and spread a thin layer of the ketchup on top. Cook for another 15 minutes and you should have a nicely browned loaf.

The smell was incredible, the mix of garlic, bacon, and cooked beef filled our place. You’re supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes, but who could wait? Served with roasted chopped carrots and baby potatoes on the side, this was a hearty and filling meal. The loaf was demolished within minutes and my attempt to save leftovers was in vain. Tony proclaimed it was the best meal I’ve made, so I was pretty happy. It just goes to show, there’s a lot to be said for haute cuisine, but for a dreary and chilly winter day, you can’t beat comfort food. 




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