Meatloaf night was always one of my favorites. Not only did Mom make a solid ‘loaf –classic with diced onions and breadcrumbs—but she usually paired it with mashed potatoes. I was a mashed potato junky and Mom’s were exceptional. She could whip a mundane Idaho spud into mounds of frothy whiteness worthy of Alta snow comparisons. (Stay tuned later this week for how she did it.)
Despite an aversion to most meat products as a child, I always ate the meatloaf. What could be more benign than glorified baked hamburger? For this reason, I am completely flummoxed by my son and daughter’s outright refusal to eat ‘loaf.
I blame it on A Christmas Story. Every time, I joyfully announce that we’re to dine on meatloaf, my daughter launches into her favorite monologue from the 1983 movie. “Meatloaf. Meatloaf, double beat-loaf. I hate meatloaf!” Spotting my arched eyebrows, she quickly mumbles, “Just kidding.” Joking aside, she ain’t trying the stuff.
To be fair, I don’t serve The Jeanne’s meatloaf. Jeff and I have adapted a turkey version with mushrooms and basil that we consider superior to (and lighter than) Mom’s. Upon further introspection, I realized that maybe my meatloaf was a tad too sophisticated for the kids’ palate. Maybe I needed to bring on the loaf Mom-style –with tons of mashed potatoes to sweeten the deal.
My son was an instant fan, albeit under the delusion that it was a hamburger. My daughter pinched her nose and painstakingly tried to eat it. I cleared the dishes in a state of annoyed bafflement.
Discussing this harsh rejection with my father, he concluded: “They haven’t tried my meatloaf. It’s the world’s best.” (While my family is never shy to praise our own good cooking, the name of Dad’s recipe is, in fact, “World’s Best Meatloaf,” in the What’s Cooking At Moody’s Diner Cookbook.) What Dad pointed out was that with ingredients like French onion soup mix and crushed crackers, his loaf might appeal to pesky kids. I gave it a whirl; this time with mashed sweet potatoes.
Oddly enough, the opposite occurred. My daughter gobbled down the World’s Best Meatloaf, proclaiming: “It tastes just like salty hamburger.” My son took a few mandatory bites, and continued his evening’s mission of being a difficult four-year old boy.
Thus, listed below are the final results of the Battle of the Meatloaf. Please note: I have only accounted for the children’s sampling of our test group. Sadly, nobody else’s opinion counts much, since we’re too polite to do the Beat-loaf bit.
The Under-7 Score:
Why, may you ask, am I so hell bent on getting these kids to eat meatloaf? I could argue that it’s because meatloaf is a cheap, easy meal for the whole family. (What I particularly like about my Dad’s version is that all ingredients come from the pantry.) But, in truth, there is an unyielding sense of nostalgia to which I inexplicably must pay homage. I ate meatloaf, and so shall you. Damnit.
I may not have won the meatloaf competition in our house, but I’m curious what y’all think. Take a look at these three recipes, and shoot me back a note with your personal fave. Better yet, try cooking one, serve it to your family, and let me know how it goes. I do NOT recommend making two in one week. Groans guaranteed; may have even skew results.
1 lb ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal
(NOTE: Often sold together and marked for meatloaf):
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp tomato sauce (or ketchup)
Salt and pepper
Mix meats together
In a bowl, combine: bread crumbs, egg, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce. Mix all together and shape in a loaf shape, about 2 inches thick.
Sprinkle garlic, salt and paprika
Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 1 hour.
LOVE THE NOTE JEANNE ADDED HERE: Optional: Hamburger Relish. You can sautee onions first; makes them less gassy.
Arthur’s World’s Best Meatloaf
From What’s Cooking at Moody’s Diner
2 lb ground beef
½ cup cracker crumbs
¼ cup milk
½ cup ketchup
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 package onion soup mix (Love how the Lipton’s package says “Recipe Secret” on it. Uh, not anymore, guys.)
Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well.
Shape meatloaf in pan and back 60 to 70 minutes at 350 degrees.
Amy’s Mushroom Basil Loaf
From Canadian Living’s Best Light Cooking
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp dried basil
½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp, parmesan cheese
2 green onions, chopped
¾ tsp pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ lb ground chicken (I prefer Kosher turkey. It’s a bit more flavorful)
2 tbsp chili sauce
- In skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook mushrooms, onion, garlic, and basil, stirring for about 3 minutes until softened.
- In bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, green onions, salt, pepper, egg, and onion mixture; mix in ground meat. Press into greased 8X4 inch loaf pan, brush with chili sauce.
- Bake in 350 degree over for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 185 degrees. Let stand for 10 minutes; pour out fat.
- Make 8 servings.