Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UnRecipe: Meat n' Potatoes

There's nothing fancy about meat loaf, but it's one of those dishes we all return to many times over. It's like a giant hamburger, minus the bun. Maybe that's what makes it such an All-American dinner staple. And there's no single, authentic way of making it, so it becomes this cultural symbol of comfort food, like chicken soup, where no single person gets to own it, but everyone gets to have a part in it. So to that, I say, Hooray to you, Meat Loaf!

Meat loaf the meal, not the singer - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Not unlike a lot of people, my mom used to make meat loaf. Not because it was fancy or because our family was craving it, but because it was simple. And, to be honest, I didn't much care for it, mostly because at the time, I wasn't a fan of hamburgers either. So weird, right? Downright un-American. But I think one of the significant turning points in my long, notorious history as a picky eater was when I had to start making meals for myself and I discovered the magic behind meat loaf. It's easy, relatively inexpensive and it yields plenty of leftovers. Ground beef, seasonings, an egg and some breadcrumbs to bind, and either shape into a loaf or shove into a loaf pan before letting the oven do its thing -- shazam, done.

I've done variations on the loaf of meat, using ground turkey, seasoned pork sausage, mixing in finely chopped vegetables, shredded cheese, and seasonings that make it Italian-themed or Southwest-themed. It's as versatile as making hamburgers, adding different ingredients and flavors as one desires, which I think also lends to its refusal to disappear from restaurant and home kitchen menus.

It was nice to have retro-worthy dinner, keepin' it real with meat loaf. But there was a little gilding of the lily by roasting some sweet potatoes with herbed grey salt and par-boiling some asparagus and tossing with gorgonzola crumbles. The meat loaf itself was a little fancier than usual, being mixed with chunks of gorgonzola cheese, giving it a nice richness of flavor. Even with all the little extra upgrades, it didn't push the meal into anything fussy, it just emphasized how comforting a meal like this can be, and how good it is to have a home cooked meal.

Asparagus cooking and a meaty loaf, baked fresh from the oven - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Turkey loaf is my favorite version of this kind of staple dish. I have to admit I make a mean turkey loaf, or I would if I could find the damn recipe that I packed away when I moved. The asparagus is a nice side as well. Delicious photos!

  2. I love meatloaf. There is something about it that immediately brings me back to being 8 years old on a Sunday night with my parents and sister. Love it. Good choice!

  3. Great photo, you've made it look like such great comfort food! And I love the gorgonzola add-in.


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