Raised by an Italian American mother, meatloaf was never big on our New York supper table when I was growing up.
However, it is as iconic a classic comfort food in the US as shepherd’s pie is in the UK and I have never liked – or cooked - either one. Both too plain, too dull – not worth spending valuable cooking time.
So absent from my kitchen has this been that when son two’s American girlfriend (now his lovely fiancé) made a classic meatloaf for supper in their Brooklyn apartment, he did not remember having ever eaten it before, commenting with amazement “she put ketchup on the top”. (Ketchup never appears in my kitchen either.)
Then a few weeks ago I took some ground beef out of the freezer meaning to make classic Southern Italian meatballs. And then I just didn’t feel like it. I had fresh button mushrooms in the fridge and dried porcini in the larder plus lots of fresh parsley, breadcrumbs and garlic destined for the meatballs, so I thought why not?
Now there are more recipes available for meatloaf than anyone could ever use in a lifetime.
NY Times Cooking has over 40 recipes for meatloaf and Martha Stewart’s website over 170!!!!! You can make it with grated potato, with fresh (or dried) breadcrumbs, with sour cream, with ketchup or chilli sauce, with or without bacon, with a mix of beef & pork or veal (or all three) with turkey or duck or even sausages, with mushrooms, onions, celery, peppers, leeks, butternut squash (or not). You can bake it in a loaf pan (as the name) or in free form “loaves” or squashed flat for speedier cooking in a skillet (see Mark Bittman in The New York Times.)
The great thing about a good meatloaf is that it is quick, inexpensive, easy to make – and endlessly flexible
not unlike making meatballs, but then instead of rolling into balls and frying in batches, the whole loaf cooks in the oven while you do something else.
And the leftovers are great for lunch the next day, sliced onto good bread with Greek yoghurt or really sharp mustard.
The key to a good meatloaf – as in good meatballs – is flavour, lightness and moisture.
So with great meatballs in mind, this is how I made my delicious, moist and very untraditional Dried Porcini mushroom meatloaf:
All you need is: serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers)
1.5 lbs/680gr ground beef
2 generous slices good bread, crusts trimmed and chopped finely
½ cup water
3.5 ounces/10 gr dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for 10-15 minutes in ½ cup water
1 large egg
1 small onion (or banana shallot) minced
generous handful of parsley, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced (or grated on microplane)
salt, freshly ground pepper
9 ounces/250 gr greek yogurt or sour cream
soak bread bits in mushroom water in bowl
add beaten egg, salt and freshly round pepper to soaked bread and mix
add minced onion, garlic, chopped soaked porcini mushrooms and parsley to bowl and mix thoroughly
add ground beef and mix together with (thoroughly washed) hand.
Place in oiled loaf tin and cover the top with sour cream/Greek yogurt.
Roast at 350F for about 1 hour – test by sticking a skewer in the middle.
Serve with a sauce of sour cream/Greek yoghurt mixed with a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard.
Next day Mushroom sauce
7 ounces/200 gr button mushrooms, sliced
1 large clove garlic minced
1 small onion/banana shallot minced
generous handful parsley, minced
Cook sliced button mushrooms with minced onion and garlic in olive oil. Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Add minced parsley and sliced leftover meatloaf. Cover and warm meatloaf. Serve with mushroom sauce when heated through.