Monday, May 11, 2009

My "Clean out the Fridge" meatloaf

There's really nothing magical about making meatloaf. Certainly not mine. I've always looked at things like soup and meatloaf as an opportunity to clean out my refrigerator. You know that overloaded front door that contains the last drops of salad dressings and that bottle of hoisin sauce that you bought just to make the one stir fry. Here's where you clean it all out.

Oh and just so you know, I never measure, unless I have to.

  • A couple pounds of meat (beef if you're a hard-core carnivore, turkey if you want to maintain some semblance of healthiness)
  • A pint-size carton of Eggbeaters or a couple (2 or 3) of eggs (I haven't bought real eggs in a long time, so I'm more likely to have Eggbeaters or some egg substitute on hand)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Chopped mushrooms, if you have them. If not, oh well.
  • a clove or two of garlic (none of that commie garlic powder crap)
  • a couple of slices of bread (NO bread crumbs!!). You might need as much as a half a loaf depending on how much meat you have.
  • Salt and Pepper (freshly ground, of course)
  • Catsup (yes, that is how I spell it)
  • Every single bottle from the front door of your fridge

Get your biggest bowl from the cupboard. You know the one that you use to make punch in or to make that army-feeding batch of cole slaw for your last cookout. Ground beef usually comes in packages of 3 lbs or so. So just dump that all in (you DO want left-overs, do you?). If your using ground turkey, that usually comes in packages of a pound or so. So, just buy a couple of packages. And if you insist that you need to cut either of those with ground pork, or sausage or lamb or whatever, then you need to move on. This is recipe is for those non-recipe following people.

So you dumped the meat in. Chop up your onions. Make sure they are small so your loaf with hold together. Same thing with the mushrooms, if you're adding them. Add in your garlic. Now look, if you're going to add in fresh garlic, make sure you've smushed and chopped it properly. No one wants to bite into a huge piece of garlic.

Now, I've skipped over a couple of ingredients on purpose. Go to all of those bottles that you've pulled out of the fridge. Mustard, barbecue sauce, Italian dressing, ranch dressing (everyone has that), hoisin sauce, hot sauce, that last bit of tomato paste. Whatever. Lets toss it in there. And look, I'm not saying that if you have half a bottle of something, that it should all go in there. This is for those tail ends that you don't know what to do with and can bearly get out of the bottle. Speaking of that, if you have a couple of drops in a bottle, lets crack (or pour) an egg into it and shake it up. That'll get it out. But don't be hung up on what goes with what. It's all flavor!

OK. About the eggs and the bread. Look, it's an by-eye thing. Sometimes I've added as much as 3-4 eggs (or the equivalent from the carton of Eggbeaters). Whatever you add, you need to add enough bread to counter that. Think of the bread like beans in chili. It's just another meal on the cheap. It extends the size of the loaf and you can feed that many more people. It's OK, I swear. Don't get snobbish on me now.

So take about 3-4 slices of bread and smush it between your fingers and break it up over the bowl. Then get your hands in there and start mixing. Does it feel too wet? Soupy? Add some more bread. Yes, bread crumbs would soak up the moisture your added from the condiments. But I've always found that it soaks up all of the moisture in the room. That's how you end up with dry meatloaf. Besides, I kinda like that mushy bread stuff. But then I like mushy stuffing for my turkey (but that's another show).

Once you've added enough bread that this mound of stuff is holding together in the bowl and you mix it, you're good. Get out your largest roasting pan or casserole dish or whatever will hold this mass and have enough room to hold all of the juices that will run from it as it cooks. But please! Whatever you do, do NOT put this in a bread loaf pan. I know it's meat LOAF. But doing that is just stupid.

Dump this all in your pan and form it into a loafy-ovally shape. Do pay attention the cracks. We want to minimize those. press and form it into a fairly tight shape and then get a small dish of water. Wet your hands and run them over the meatloaf a couple of times as you're forming it. The added water is a good thing. Squirt some catsup over the top of the loaf.

Then put this in a 350-375 degree oven until it's done. When is done? When your meat thermometer says so. And yes, if you don't have one, you are a loser.

When it's done, take it out and let it rest for about 30 minutes or so. Then slice and eat.

And if you don't like it, just didn't have the right stuff in your fridge.

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