Recipe: Not Your Mama's Meatloaf

Ever see a really adorable kid, then look at his not-so-cute parents and wonder how this happened? Sometimes the mixing of plain old average gene pools results in a splashier, infinity-edge cement pond.

Meatloaf doesn't have to be a dreaded slice of dry, tasteless hamburgler of an afterthought of a meal. With a bit of imagination, chopping, and a few extra steps you can turn your family's ho-hum dinner frown upside down.

Like a trailer mom slapping lipstick on a pageant toddler, I doll up basic meatloaf in 10 easy steps.
Bison, beef, sausage meatloaf with caramelized mirepoix. 


Foodstuffs:

1 pound ground Bison
1/2 pound ground beef
1 large, uncooked sausage
2 eggs
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 medium onion
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
Olive oil
2 slices of bread
1/2 cup milk
Tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Hardware:

Loaf pan (about 11" x 5")
Bowl
Mixing spoon
Measuring cup
Knife
Cutting board
Skillet
Food processor for bread crumbs
Oil sprayer (note: not non-stick spray)

Yield:

About 9 1-inch thick slices of meatloaf

Time Commitment:

About 1.5 hours. Relax, you're making dinner, not raising a child from start to finish.


1. Crank up the oven to 375, and some hot music. This is a time for dancing. Classic rock and disco provide beats that are easy to cook to.

2. Add your meat to the bowl. Buffalo is back! Seems that ranchers gathered up the last breeding pair of bison and stuck them on a rabbit farm in Montana and sternly told them: Watch the rabbits. Do what they do.  Now there are hundreds of thousands of them.

I use buffalo since it has less fat and cholesterol than beef or chicken, then I add beef to get a moderate amount of fat, and a sausage for flavor.

Remove the sausage from its casing.


You can use turkey or whatever meat party combo your metabolism will tolerate. I'm doing ab crunches as you read this. Adapt and conquer -- that's what life, and this meatloaf recipe are all about.

3.  Crack two eggs onto the meat, add salt and pepper. 

I use cage-free, vegetarian eggs because I fear the other egg-laying chickens have been raised as cannibals and I don't really want to support, or ingest, that lifestyle. Even mentally.

Salt and pepper. Add a few chili flakes if you want to turn the heat up.

Keep dancing and mix up the meat mixture. I like to use my hands, but make sure you can operate the faucet and soap dispenser somehow when it's time to wash up. Which needs to be often. You know where you've been, please don't take us there too.

4.  Make your mirepoix. Chop the onion, carrots and celery into a small dice and if you want to do it like a pro, read my post on the lessons I learned in knife skills class.

Chop them uniform and small so your meatloaf appears like a wonderfully blended family. We don't want chunks sticking out like little foreign exchange students.

5.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, then add chopped veg. Let your oil heat up before adding the veg as they'll greedily soak up the cold oil.

Like me in math class, we want them to be horrified as they hit the screeching hot skillet so they absorb as little as possible.


Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the veg and stir. You can add 16 pinches before you reach a teaspoon of salt, so relax. It's important to flavor each time you add an unsalted ingredient.

Turn the heat down to medium low, and let the mirepoix soften for about six minutes before you add the vinegar. Balsamic is strong and not for the faint of smell.

6.  Add Balsamic. Start by adding about half of your 1/3 cup on the sautéing vegetables.

Quickly step back because a poof of lung- and eye-searing aroma comes shooting up as soon as the liquid hits the skillet. Once it's cooked down a bit (usually a minute or two), add the rest of the vinegar.


You're after fairly dry, cooked veggies. After eight to ten minutes, remove from heat and let cool in the skillet.

7.  Turn bread into crumbs. Use the food processor, or crumble really well by hand; don't use canned crumbs.

They're usually stale, and each container has been proven to contain human finger tips. Not really, but they're horrible -- full of preservatives, filler and not necessary. Man up and use fresh bread.

Sprinkle over meat mixture like you're spreading crumbs on the bedsheets of a spurned lover.

8.  Pour the milk on the meat. And add the cooked veg. Mix it up with the spoon or your hands, just be careful if the vegetables are still hot.

Cause your hands aren't invincible just because you've been boogieing for twenty minutes. That dance was going a lot better in your mind.


9. Oil the loaf pan. Don't use PAM, it's human sweat mixed with ground up snails. Not really, but it is full of nasty chemicals.

Use an oil sprayer, or a put a little oil on a paper towel and wipe the pan with that.

Place the meat in the pan and pack it down tightly with the back of the spoon. I like to slap it down like I'm spanking it, the resulting sound keeps me alert. Maybe that's just me. Regardless, get it as flat and tight in the pan so your meatloaf will be solid.  I like a solid mass of meatloaf to come out of the pan and stay together; I hate a crumbling, sniveling man of a meatloaf like it's just watched an emotionally manipulative commercial. Pull it together.

10.  Spread tomato paste along the top. It adds a tangy taste and makes the final result look more enticing, otherwise this is a brown dish. I prefer the tube of paste over the can.

Be considerate and squeeze the tube from the bottom, just like toothpaste. 


11.  Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. For safety, place on or over a drip catching sheet pan lined with foil. I'm all about easy clean up.

Remove from oven, let cool a bit, slice and serve when ready. Drizzle the pan's juices on top of each slice as a trailer park au jus.

(Oh, did I say 10 steps? Told you about me and math class.)

You can add sauteed mushrooms, or sun dried tomatoes -- again, chop them small to avoid unstable meatloaf.

I've also filled the loaf pan halfway with the meat mixture, then laid whole, raw asparagus spears lengthwise on top, then added the rest of the meat on top. Nice presentation, and a pop of color when sliced.

You want to go rogue? Stir one teaspoon of toasted cumin into 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and dollop on top of each slice of meatloaf.

Serve this dinner with a broad smile of a bounteous, multi-colored salad. And mashed potatoes -- you didn't really think I was leaving that pleasure off the plate, did you?


Any leftovers freeze as beautifully as Walt Disney's head.

You've now morphed a dish with mid-level expectations into a fussed-over baby, and the only thing spoiled is your guests.

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