The Meatloaf of 2011

Can it get more homely and prosaic than meatloaf? Well, marginally more perhaps, but meatloaf is sort of almost iconic in its low-browness.

Which is exactly why, I say in understatement, my husband is not such a big fan. That and its notable lack of texture—if it’s made right, meatloaf should be quite a tender experience, shouldn’t it. Add in the trad mashed potato accompaniment for more nontexture. But, go fig, he prefers his food to have some chewability, I guess. The net effect of this years-long non-negotiation is I rarely make meatloaf, a dish I really like.

Over the weekend a concatenated series of events including but not limited to a rainstorm and a postponed dinner party had the result of my finding myself with a nice package of the excellent 22% ground beef from El Toro Gourmet Meat in the fridge. A treasure! For years, the years before I shopped at ETM (as we call it), I ground my own beef, using the meat grinding attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, or, for very small amounts, the food processor. This after much information gathering on the various risks one assumes consuming commercial ground meat. The easy conclusion from quite a volume of research: I am SO grinding my own meat. Flavor and cooking performance were factors, too—pretty startlingly superior in a fresh-ground product. Which ETM’s is, fresh. And wholesome, and all that. Best burgers you’ll ever make at home, etc.

But I rarely have it in meatloaf-worthy volume. And yet! My opening gambit included bacon-brown sugar-ketchup topping, the reminder that we had the current favorite Meños Farms lettuce procured at that morning’s Newport Beach Farmers Market, AND a fresh Cream Pan ciabatta. After some consideration my husband indicated that he MIGHT see his way clear to not being supernegative about meatloaf on Sunday IF there were hard-boiled eggs down the middle, revealing themselves as the loaf is sliced. Ah, (what I call) Cheap Cooking Tricks, super-simple additions that sort of blow people’s minds, like seeds on a bread. You know how a few seeds strewn on top of a pan of rolls can make people think you’re the greatest cook in the world? Eggs in the meatloaf, same thing. I could do that.

And so it came to pass, meatloaf, complete with h.b. eggs, landed in thick slices atop Meños’ incredibly good Romaine, dressed on the side with my vision of deconstructed Thousand Island. I’m always landing hot and/or crispy things on lettuce beds, it’s either an obsession or a signature, take your pick, but I do it a LOT. Was good! And now I can say we’ve had our 2011 meatloaf—I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even a single one last year. Wonder if we’ll go for two?

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