It’s wise not to underestimate meatloaf. Sure, you’ll find meatloaf in the frozen- food section of every supermarket in America. It’s often packaged as a complete meal, accompanied by tater tots, green beans and apple brown betty — all conveniently segregated in compartments appealing to those who don’t like their foods to touch. In natural foods groceries, you may purchase a vegan or whole grain version of one of America’s favorite comfort foods.
Meatloaf can also be a cinch to make at home: simply mix ground beef with eggs and breadcrumbs, bake it in a loaf pan and smear the top with ketchup. This version may be uninspired and bland, but it may rightly claim meatloaf status.
But meatloaf can be so much more than, well … meatloaf — and has come to my rescue on many an occasion. If I, for example, needed an elegant starter course, I could combine ground pork shoulder with livers, bacon and herbs, bake it in in a terrine (loaf pan), and — voila! I may refer to this version of meatloaf as Paté de Campagne (Country Paté), suitable fare to serve royalty — with a crusty baguette, coarse mustard and several cornichons, of course, on the side.
This week, I have another request to make of my meatloaf: that it be lean and fiber-rich. It was happy to oblige, substituting lean ground turkey for the usual fatty and juicy ground beef, and fiber-rich bulgur for the breadcrumbs.
I requested that this loaf be flavorful, and, like a special treat, retain some vestiges of mom’s inimitable version. With the tart, sugary and ketchupy topping in the recipe below, how could I complain? And last, I requested this loaf not collapse under the weight of a blade; that it slice neatly into regular square pieces. It passed the test with flying colors.
I know that my meatloaf will always be there for me. And I, fork in hand, will always be here for my meatloaf.