My friend Kathleen made meatloaf for a group of friends the other evening, using a mix of ground beef, pork and veal, and it was so delicious, I decided to try my hand at making one. The ingredients, she assured me, were nothing exotic–celery, onions, thyme, chives, bread crumbs, milk and eggs.
I haven’t used the beef/pork/veal mixture for anything in many years and I’ve forgotten how good it can be. My mother always made meatballs and meatloaf using this combination throughout my childhood. Later in life, she switched to ground turkey, which I love as well, and which I’ve come to use almost exclusively for my meatballs and meatloaf.
To begin, aromatics get sauteed in a combination of butter and olive oil. Onions, shallots, celery and thyme are slowly softened until they begin to caramelize. I gave them a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and set them aside to cool.
I made breadcrumbs by breaking some pieces of bread from my ever-present store of stale bread, into the food processor. The older and drier the bread, the easier it is to make into crumbs. Simply pulse until the crumbs resemble coarse sawdust. If any stubborn large pieces remain once the majority of the breadcrumbs reach the desired fineness, just discard them.
The aromatics and crumbs are combined, along with the meat and eggs, and kneaded into a loaf. The loaf is baked, uncovered, until the internal temperature reaches around 165 degrees (in my oven, at 375 degrees, this took about an hour).
In addition to the meatloaf, tonight we had sauteed swiss chard, from my neighbor Beppi’s garden, as well as baked potatoes.
2 lbs ground beef/pork/veal mixture
1 small red onion
2 small shallots
2 stalks celery
2 tbls freshly chopped thyme leaves
2 tbls butter
2 tbls olive oil
1 1/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c half-and-half or milk
1/4 c fresh chopped chives
2 – 3 tsps salt + 1 tsp black pepper
In a skillet, place onions, shallots, celery, thyme, butter and olive oil. Bring to a simmer on low heat and allow to soften until they begin to caramelize (about 10 minutes). Season well to taste, with salt and pepper.
Set mixture aside to cool.
Once cool, add bread crumbs, half-and-half, and chives and mix well to combine. Taste and salt again.
Add meat and eggs and sprinkle with an additional 2 teaspoons of salt.
Mix well with hands, until fairly uniformly combined. Form into a loaf and bake, uncovered at 375 degrees for about an hour, or until the internal temperature is about 165 degrees. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.