American Meatloaf, Slightly French, with a California Twist

Unless you eschew meat, meatloaf is about as homey a meal as it gets.   Though its history in the annals of food can be traced far back to Middle Eastern and early European roots, the version we today think of as consummate comfort food, a mix of beef, pork and/or veal, sometimes beef only, the kind mom made, doesn’t appear prominently in American cooking or American cookbooks until the 20th Century.

True, there were written versions of meat loaves from the 1880s on (Fannie Farmer, 1896), but these were made mostly of veal. A question arises: How did American meatloaf come to achieve the almost spiritual status it holds today? I think the answer is many-pronged: it is super easy for the home cook to make; it allows for multitudinous personal variations as to meats and seasonings used; it is a thrifty way to provide protein; it’s delicious.

Mom’s meatloaf? Photo by Rick Wise

Here, in a cross-continental loaf reminiscent of French pates, beef, pork, and veal are combined with bread crumbs and moistened with a soupcon of white wine to make a pillowy loaf. The bread crumbs, or sometimes oatmeal, cracker crumbs, or the newly available time-saver panko crumbs, are not primarily for “stretching” the loaf. Rather, their key purpose is to tenderize and make the loaf more succulent. The California twist is replacing the traditional ketchup topping on what old cookbooks call “frosted” meatloaf with pavers of sun-dried tomatoes. The recipe is adapted from my Sausage: Making and Cooking with Homemade Sausage (Ten Speed).

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork, not too lean

1/2 pound ground veal

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow or white onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup white wine

1 large egg

6 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves

3 slices unsmoked bacon, cut in half crosswise

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Place the beef, pork , veal, onion, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, white wine, and egg in a medium bowl and knead with your hands until thoroughly blended and no longer wet.

3. Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart loaf pan or souffle dish. Pat the mixture to smooth it across the top and evenly fill the container. Arrange the tomatoes over the loaf without overlapping them. Arrange the bacon, without overlapping, over the tomatoes.

4. Place in the oven and bake until the juices bubble up golden and clear, not pink, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the loaf rest in it for 1 hour to finish cooking and firm up.

5. Slice and serve warm. Or, refrigerate and serve cold, perhaps as part of a charcuterie plate.

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3 responses to “American Meatloaf, Slightly French, with a California Twist

  1. deborah kashinsky

    Meat loaf big hit at KK house. I look forward to trying the lamb pork addition rather than straight beef. 1 hour and 10 minutes just right. Thanks again.Toasted sandwiches with mayo bring back the good old days. Finish with an oreo.

  2. deborah kashinsky

    Yum how do you stop eating it? I suppose you’d say, when you are full. Kaptan Kaiser

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