Mark your calendars: today was the first time in over two weeks that I prepared meat at home. And oh, what a glorious portion of meat it was! That’s right, I made meatloaf.
I understand that there are many who have misgivings about meatloaf. It’s more of a food concept than a tangible thing – I mean, it’s a loaf of meat, but what do you know conclusively about it otherwise? You don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know what’s on it. You don’t know if it’s going to be moist or dry, rich or flavorless. Even if you’ve prepared the meatloaf yourself, you still have no guarantees.
We haven’t made meatloaf since March – for no good reason – but we’ve both been craving healthier versions of family classics, so I gave a new recipe a try tonight. And by ‘a new recipe’, I mean that I just made something up and was terribly pleased when it turned out well.
Meatloaf: An Improvisation
1 lb pork (we used an fresh (i.e. not smoked) ham steak, which I then ground in the food processor)
A couple of thick slices of day-old bread (we used a heel of Zingerman’s Farm Bread), torn or ground into crumbs
1 small onion, finely diced (or tossed in the food processor as well!)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth (could sub any other kind of broth, water, beer?, milk – just some liquid to keep it moist)
1 generous teaspoon fennel seeds
1 generous teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (optional but highly recommended). Take off your rings and thoroughly mix all ingredients together by hand in a big bowl. You can use a spoon, but it won’t be as effective or tactile. Form the mixture into a loaf and place in the pan. Bake for 45 minutes, then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer – it should reach 160 and come out clean when inserted in the center of the loaf. Remove from oven, then remove loaf from pan and let it cool on a platter for a few minutes before serving.
This should make 4-6 portions, depending on how hungry you are and what you’re eating with it. Tonight we had boiled red potatoes from our garden, but this loaf would also be killer with mashed potatoes or some crisp green beans.