On March 26 of every year, I eat meatloaf. For my dad’s birthday, my mom would make him meatloaf with scalloped potatoes and crispy chocolate chip cookies to finish. To his dismay, I couldn’t stand the loaf of minced meat. It was dry ground beef—flavorless, with a crumbly texture and served with ketchup. It remains the childhood dish I can’t escape.
After being assigned a profile piece on a Midwestern dish, I spent a day researching the history of meatloaf. Meatloaf became the quintessential budget meal because home cooks could stretch inexpensive cuts of meat with fillers like breadcrumbs or oatmeal. My Michigander grandmother had a husband and four little “knuckleheads,” as my dad likes to say, to feed every night.
I took a break from browsing the Internet for meatloaf findings and ventured to Molly O’Neill’s living room. I thumbed through a few books sitting out, one of them being Molly Wizenberg’s new book, Delancey. I randomly opened to a page in the center, looked down and saw big and bold: “MEATLOAF.” Following was a recipe for her favorite version of the classic dish. I shut the book.
I found myself in the kitchen with Caroline, a fellow scholar and chef, who has both bouncy hair and personality.
After getting meat from Tim, the local farmer, we began chopping, pulverizing, sautéing and smushing, while Marvin Gaye crooned through the stereo.
“Babe-yy, I’m hot just like an oven. I need some lovin.’”
I grooved while Caroline tenderly wrap the loaves in bacon, to the ultimate cooking song, before I brushed them with maple syrup and popped them into the oven with skepticism.
To my surprise, the meat was anything but mealy. It was pleasantly salty from the fish sauce, rounded with spicy sriracha, fresh herbs and sweet syrup. The bacon encased the loaf adding a smoky chew, which caramelized under the broiler. Best of all, it had so much flavor it didn’t need ketchup. As much as I don’t want to admit liking meatloaf, I’ll be eating it with my dad next year, but this time, I will make Caroline’s.
Makes 2 large loaves//Caroline Ford
- 2 lbs. ground pork
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (white bread pulsed in a food processor)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped celery, about 2 stalks
- ½ cup grated carrot
- 2 cups grated onion, about two onions
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon Worchestershire
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2/3 cup, heaping, salty cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/3 cup milk
- 14 pieces thin cut bacon
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- Salt + Pepper
Heat a large pan over medium heat with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the thyme. Stir in parsley and cook for about another minute. The vegetables will be translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk together eggs, worchestershire, sriracha, fish sauce, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Put both meats in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the meat. Stir in the cooked vegetables, cheese and breadcrumbs. Pour the milk over the top and stir until just incorporated. Be careful to handle gently, over mixing the meatloaf will make it tough.
Heat the oven to 400ºF with the convection feature turned on.
Place a cooling rack in a rimmed sheet tray. Cover the sheet tray in foil, wrapping the foil around the edges. Poke holes in the foil with a knife. Repeat for the second loaf. Pat half of the meat into a loaf about 10 inches long and 3 inches tall. Repeat with the rest of the meat on the second prepared tray.
Place 7 pieces of bacon across each loaf, tucking the ends under. Brush the bacon with maple syrup.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the temperature of the meatloaf reaches about 155ºF. If the bacon still looks fatty and pink, turn the oven on broil until it crisps. Watch it closely; this happens quickly.
Remove from oven. Let sit for 10 minutes on counter before slicing.