It has been raining a lot and the air has gotten chillier. It is the kind of weather that makes you think of cups of smokey Lapsang Souchong tea, wrapping up in a warm blanket on the couch to watch a movie and hearty comfort food. It isn't quite autumn yet and the weather is far from cold, but it is these first tiny whispers of fall and winter in the air that suddenly make you crave all those things you gladly tucked away last spring. So when I came across the Pioneer Woman's recipe for meatloaf, the one she cooks for her very own cowboys and cowgirls, I knew it was what I wanted.
Poor meatloaf. So scorned, so mistreated. It is not a beauty to photograph and it certainly is not refined fare, but it is filling, complete, tasty and comforting. It is cheap, it will feed a whole family and still make excellent leftovers to be eaten cold with a light salad or tucked away in a crusty sandwich smothered in dripping sauces and any other thing you care to add. And the other great thing about this recipe is that you will pretty much have all the ingredients you will need right in your kitchen. What more could you possibly want from a meal?
1 cup milk
6 slices white bread
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp seasoned salt
¾ tsp salt
black pepper (freshly ground)
4 whole eggs
10 slices thinly sliced bacon
1½ cups ketchup
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
Tabasco to taste
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Pour milk over bread slices. (The whole idea of meatloaf in the past, when you threw absolutely nothing away, was to use up left-over stale bread, so by all means use it if you have it. We are not big bread eaters -but we are bread lovers, don't get me wrong! - so I used the emergency sliced bread I keep in the house since I have become a Mom). Let it soak. In the meantime place the ground beef in a bowl and add in the soaked bread, the Parmesan, the salt, pepper and as much chopped parsley as you like. Pour in the eggs, that you will have previously beaten. Mix the ingredients (with your hands, don't be afraid!) until well combined. Place the mixture that you will have formed into a loaf shape on a lined baking tray (PW suggests a broiler pan, which I do not have). At this point you can start wrapping the loaf in thin bacon slices, tucking them under the bottom.
To make the sauce put the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Tabasco into a mixing bowl and stir. I did not have any dry mustard and it worked great anyway, but I can see how this ingredient adds a whole new dimension to the sauce and cuts into the sweetness. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over the top of the bacon and spread. Place the meatloaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, then pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top and bake for another 15 minutes, until it looks nice and brown and caramelized. PW suggest keeping extra sauce for dipping, but I was out of ketchup so I only used the little sauce I had to cook the meat.
I am looking forward to the leftovers in my fridge. And I will dream of cowboys working their cattle in the open prairies of America at sunrise with every bite! Thanks Ree.