With Mother’s Day right around the corner you might think this is a story about how I still make my mother’s favorite meatloaf recipe. You know the one I’m talking about — with family-guarded special ingredients, handwritten on an index card. It should be the recipe that every time I make it, I think of her and how she dutifully cooked dinner for seven every night for many, many years. I do think of my mom when I make meatloaf, but for very different reasons. True, if it weren’t for her, I may not have learned to cook at all. Her teaching methods were more along the lines of tossing the kid into the pool and hope that they figure out how to swim. Not a bad method for many things and I’ll have to say for me, it mostly worked as much as I held in my mind a mother who carefully showed me each step of the process and then praised me when I did such a great job of chopping those vegetables.
About the time I became a teenager, my mother decided she’d had enough of being a 50’s housewife and decided to devote most of her time to political endeavors. By then it was the 60’s after all, and the rest of her kids were off at school or working. Mom went all out and became president of various organizations including the League of Women Voters, which in retrospect was a bold thing to do, especially in the South where most women of her generation simply voted for whomever their husbands did. The fact that she wasn’t home for dinner some of the time was probably a very good thing given the state of our relationship.
For a while during the height of her political career and my most rebellious phase, I would often come home to an empty kitchen with a package of meat defrosting on the counter. It was actually fun to have free reign of the kitchen, knowing that my father would be grateful for whatever I cooked as long as it was ready when he stepped in the door from work. I grew tired of hamburgers and decided to branch out and try another of the many ways to use ground beef popular at the time. I know I cooked meatloaf more than once but I can’t remember what I put in it except for a vague memory of dried onion soup, but maybe that was in the pot roast.
A week or two ago I came upon a package of ground beef in the freezer from Skagit River Ranch. I also had a couple of slices of their bacon in the fridge. You can get fancy and add ground pork and ground veal and even chicken livers like the French versions or use what you have on hand like I did. Admittedly, it isn’t the prettiest meal but there’s something very comforting about meatloaf and it’s worth it for the leftovers alone.
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (in a crunch I’ve used cracker crumbs and they were surprisingly good)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large shallot, chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 T unsalted butter
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T apple cider vinegar
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
2 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Soak bread crumbs in milk in large bowl.
Cook shallot, garlic, celery and carrot in butter in skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce and vinegar and season with salt & pepper. Add to bread crumb mixture.
Add chopped bacon, ground beef, eggs and parsley to bread crumb vegetable mixture. Mix it all together with your hands.
Form mixture into a loaf shape in a baking dish.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Thanks to my virtual mother, Epicurious. com for recipe inspiration.
Charlie made the most amazing mashed potatoes to accompany my meatloaf. He used creme fraiche instead of milk or cream and tons of fresh chopped chives from the garden. He even chopped up a few chive blossoms and added those to the mix.
If you have any leftovers, meatloaf makes an excellent sandwich, just don’t hold back on the mayo and a squirt or two of ketchup never hurts.