Before we were married, Jim lived in Houston and had a co-worker named Mike who’s wife would make meatloaf once a week. The day after meatloaf night, Mike’s sweet wife would send two meatloaf sandwiches to work with him. One was for Mike, and the other was for Jim. Most often than not, Jim would eat his sandwich for breakfast because he loved them so much. I knew that I must have this magic recipe and was thrilled when it arrived in my inbox, and even more stoked to read how easy it was. I have since made meatloaf for Jim dozens of times, and this foolproof recipe is the hands-down winner.
I am giving you my version of the original, which is simple and straightforward. Following, are my tips, tricks, and hacks for serving meatloaf your whole family will love.
Old Fashion Meatloaf
1 lb of ground meat (I alternate between turkey and 80/20 beef)
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 onion, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of oats (bread crumbs or crushed bran cereal works too)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (I buy fire roasted)
Dash soy sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Gently mix the first 10 ingredients by hand and pat it down into a 9X13 casserole pan. In a medium bowl mix the last three ingredients together and spread on top of the meatloaf. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Mike's wife always made hers with ground turkey, and it works beautifully here. I tend to alternate between turkey and 80/20 ground beef depending on what is on sale. The NY Times Meatloaf recipe (which wasn't as good as the recipe above) offers a mix of ground beef, veal, and pork. Just know that you can use a pound of any ground meat you like, or a mix thereof.
The basic seasonings are salt, pepper. Do not go to the store just to buy ground thyme if it is not something you have in your home. Just skip it and don't worry about it. I usually have a mason jar of "house seasoning" in my cupboard which contains a potpourri of dried herbs. I typically throw a three-finger pinch of that flavor booster into my meatloaf. A hefty pinch of Italian seasoning is equally as nice.
I think the soy and Worcestershire are essential, but if you don't have one just relax and keep going because both add umami flavor. Anchovies give Worcestershire sauce a lot of depth, but the salty savoriness is also tempered by vinegar. Together, they really enhance, brighten, and round out the flavors in rich, meaty dishes. I typically add a tiny splash of fish sauce because I have it in my pantry - all of these ingredients are doing the same thing in this dish - adding salt and umami.
So, this meatloaf isn't' a "loaf?"
No, I should change the name of this recipe altogether! Here is why I pat the mixture into a casserole pan: more surface area for the lovely glaze. Plus, the flat sheet of meat that I end up with allows me the flexibility to transform leftovers into more meals. Keep reading for ideas.
Changing it up
Original - The first night I make this I like to serve it up alongside garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes and green peas. Then I get creative with the leftovers.
Sandwiches - This is great sandwiched between two slices of bread.
Meatsquares - Cut into small squares, serve on top of mashed potatoes and tell the kids you are having "meatsquares" instead of meatballs.
Sliders - As pictured above, sandwiched between Hawaiian rolls.
Italian Sliders - Adjusted the seasoning to make it more Italian and leave off the glaze. You could use Hawaiian rolls (my family's favorite) or other slider buns to sandwich the meat. Add deli mozzarella slices and broil for melty cheese. Slather with some jarred marinara sauce and you have an awesome Italian slider.