My first attempt at making an "old-fashioned" meatloaf started out ok. I make meatloaf three or four times a year and it's pretty simple. I figured all I needed to do was to get the right ratio of wet and dry ingredients and not over-bake it. Easier said than done.
I looked at five different recipes in my great-grandmother's Inglenook Cookbook and they had a lot of similarities-- ground beef, milk, onion, salt, pepper, bread crumbs. One included thyme and another suggested using a piece of butter "the size of a walnut". I decided to incorporate both of these ideas.
Riding high from a recent success with baked beans, I decided to use chili sauce instead of the ketchup or sliced tomatoes that several of the recipes called for. In retrospect, this was clearly a mistake.
Moving on to the more crucial ingredients, I averaged out the amount of ground beef found in each recipe (2 pounds) and the number of eggs (2 seemed pretty standard). Most of the cooks used a cup of milk. Then I added salt, pepper, and onion, which I later realized I'd forgotten to sauté before adding them to the mix.
But things really started to go wrong with the breadcrumbs. Some recipes called for up to a "large" cup of breadcrumbs. Others suggested using crackers, as my grandmother always had. I went with the breadcrumbs because that's what I had in my cabinet. I used a standard cup, which didn't seem to be nearly enough. Looking at the liquidly red mess in my mixing bowl, I cavalierly tossed in a generous handful with my "clean" hand and kept stirring the mixture with my "messy" hand.
Next I formed the mixture into a loaf in my grandmother's roasting pan (for good luck) and topped it off with the remains of my bottle of chili sauce (about a quarter cup). I proudly photographed the raw meatloaf and popped it in the oven, already anticipating the delicious aroma that would soon waft out of my kitchen.
|Meatloaf about to go into the oven, Feb. 2011.|
It wasn't until I started serving the meatloaf that I realized I'd forgotten to take a "beauty shot" of my completed meatloaf. I was horrified. And frazzled. And I had a sneaky suspicion that things were not as they should be. But I persevered. I took the meatloaf off the cutting board and plopped it back into the crusty roasting pan (another fatal mistake). After taking a few blurry photos, I realized I didn't have enough daylight left in the kitchen to take a photograph without flash, so I carried the dried carcass to my daughters' room, which has a bright daylight balanced halogen bulb in the ceiling fixture.
I put a placemat on my daughters' play table and plopped the roasting pan down on top of it. Then I ran back to the kitchen to get the camera and tripod. By the time I returned, my daughter had surrounded my meatloaf with a collection of toys and just as I was about to yell at her to get that crap off my table, she waved her hands proudly in front of the display and proudly said, "Mommy, look! I decorated it for you."
I took a deep breath and choked back my tears. When I could speak in what I hoped was my usual tone of voice I said, "Thank you, sweetie. It's beautiful." I took a photograph and carried our dinner back into the kitchen. My husband, who had just come home after a long day at the office, happily ate the meatloaf and thought it was "pretty good". We even ate the leftovers the next day.
|Ugly, overcooked meatloaf in the world's most beautiful surroundings, Feb. 2011.|