I have been holding off presenting this classic meatloaf recipe for that point when Carson City and surrounding areas would be happily buried in many feet of snow, as I consider meatloaf by any definition, to be a cold-weather comfort food.
Since to date it appears Nevada and Mother Nature with their predictable unpredictability are doing their level best to avoid winter in favor of spring, I thought maybe presenting the recipe and fostering the community’s commitment to cooking it en masse, might facilitate much needed inclement weather. Consider it to be the chef’s version of “hey everyone, let’s do a rain and snow dance.”
Perhaps by doing this, we can collectively put energy toward creating a weather event that will rival the East Coast’s recent Snowcopalypse (though we are a tougher breed out West, and there will be no whining or freaking out if we are so blessed), that will yield dividends for us all, especially for our farmers and ranchers, in the coming months.
So let’s all do our part and get cooking!
Classic Meatloaf Recipe
11/2 pounds ground beef
I recommend choosing a nice piece of chuck roast and either grinding it yourself, or having your butcher do so. (My local butcher is Dave at Butler Meats, but I’m quite sure any butcher will do this, if asked.)
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red peppers
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 eggs, whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic (fresh will work, too)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoon mustard
1/2 C. bread crumbs
Garnish: 2 strips bacon cooked crisp and finely chopped
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
I like serving meatloaf with or without gravy but I always garnish with grated sharp cheddar cheese and finely chopped bacon on top.
In a mixing bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic, one tablespoon of the mustard, barbecue sauce, ground beef or ground chuck and eggs. There’s no need to whip eggs before adding to the mix. Once thoroughly blended, add remaining ingredients except for the ketchup and one tablespoon mustard, as these will be used on top of the meatloaf.
Make a hand-formed loaf shape and place in baking pan, or if you use a loaf pan (similar to a bread pan), be sure to butter it first so your meatloaf won’t stick. The benefit to using a larger pan with a hand-formed loaf, is the wonderful drippings available to add to the Pan Gravy recipe (below).
In a small bowl, blend ketchup, remaining one tablespoon of mustard and two (2) dashes of your favorite chili sauce, mix and brush over the top of the meatloaf.
Place in oven preheated to 350 degrees, and bake approximately 1 to 11/2 hours, allowing the meatloaf to reach an internal temperature of between 160 to 170 degrees. I prefer 160-ish.
Once done, remove meatloaf from the oven. If you have cooked it in a loaf pan, allow to cool 10 minutes before removing, as the cooling allows everything to “set” and sticking in the pan is less likely.
At any time the meatloaf is cooking, you can make the gravy:
There are two schools of thought on this as some folks like gravy with their meatloaf and others don’t. I can go either way, but this it what I use when I do:
4 strips good quality bacon, cut into 1-inch x 1/4-inch pieces
I prefer thick cut bacon that typically can only be bought at the butcher, such as uncured Beeler’s Brand. Trader Joe’s has good choices, as does Butler Meats.
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
1 cup half-and-half (or more, as needed)
1/4 cup flour
Over medium-low heat, in a skillet 12-inches wide by 2-inches deep (approximate), add 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle the bacon into pan and let it slowly crisp up. While bacon is crisping heat, use one cup half-and-half.
When bacon is about half done add 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onions, two cloves finely chopped fresh garlic (not to be confused with two heads of garlic). By the time the onions are translucent and garlic a bit browned, bacon should be crisp. Add 1/4 cup flour, whisking vigorously to avoid burning. When bacon fat and butter oils blend smoothly into the flour, slowly add the half-and-half. Add salt and pepper to taste and a couple dashes of your preferred chili sauce. You should be good to go.
Note: The amount of fat the bacon yields varies and determines the gravy texture. If the flour and oil isn’t at right consistency, add more flour or butter as needed. It should be a smooth consistency. If the gravy is too thick either add warm water until it’s the right consistency, or more half-and-half. Cooking gravy is one of those organic processes. It’s one of those cooking things you just gotta feel.
Mashed potatoes also make the perfect complementary side dish to serve with your classic meatloaf.
Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele’s. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.