And so we arrive at Treif Corner.
But first, a story. Nonnie grew up in a pretty strictly Orthodox household, doing the things pretty strictly Orthodox Jews do — keeping kosher, regular synagogue trips, the whole Megillah, so to speak. Then, around age 13, she visited a gentile friend’s house, tried bacon for the first time, and — according my mom’s telling, anyway — decided the whole organized religion thing was bullshit.
Which brings me to this blog’s maiden pig-based adventure.
Nonnie’s meatloaf is quintessentially midcentury. Think a grayish, oblong block filled with convenience foods (Quaker Oats, and don’t forget to buy the instant kind), the teensiest whisper of actual seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika; I discovered too late that I didn’t have any regular paprika, so I had to accidentally make the loaf more delicious by using pimentón instead), and a mixture of ground meats — basic beef, the Eisenhower administration’s protein of choice (a.k.a. veal), and, of course, pork.
And you know what? It’s also about as tasty as it is ugly.
Sure, you could remove it from the loaf pan partway through baking in order to promote more allover browning, as in this delicious-looking Food Lab recipe; you could cover it in a ketchup/brown sugar glaze followed by strips of bacon, as in this version from America’s Test Kitchen. Both approaches, though, strike me as sort of unnecessary. Meatloaf is just about the least glamorous food there is, and I think its basic blandness is actually key to its appeal. Why gild a lily that’s specifically designed to be humble and comforting?
Which didn’t exactly stop me from slathering my slices in sriracha and globs of the barbecue sauce I found languishing in the back of our fridge… but I digress.
Oh, and before I get to the recipe itself: We’ve got a twofer this week! As there’s nothing more ’50s fabulous than meat and potatoes, I went ahead and paired the loaf with Nonnie’s basic oven-roasted spuds — more a technique than a recipe, which actually makes it more useful than the lion’s share of internet-hosted food instructions. Am I selling this, or what?
Meatloaf; main text Nonnie’s, italicized asides my own
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork [For more on what each specific meat brings to the table, I highly recommend the Food Lab link up top]
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup Quaker Oats, instant
1 cup milk
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley [What would a fridge even be without a long-neglected, limp bunch of parsley you’ve used precisely 5 percent of?]
Salt, pepper, paprika
Have butcher mix meats together if possible. [It was possible. So that’s what I did.] Mix all ingredients together [with your hands, if you enjoy playing your her food. Just know that’ll make it a little more difficult to take pictures of the process for your blog. You do have a blog, right?]. Form into a loaf in a loaf pan [loaf loaf loaf loaf loaf] and bake 1 1/2 hour in 350 oven. Drain fat out of pan at least once during cooking time. Cool and slice thin. Serves 4.
The verdict: Serves four? Are you joking? That thing could cause a child-sized crater if dropped from a fifth-story window. It took Mikey and me a week to get through it, because no human should be putting down half a pound of animal padded out with oatmeal in a single sitting.
Serving size aside, I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out. As Nonnie notes, though, it’s a real greaseball. I did my first draining when the loaf had been in the oven around an hour; it took maybe a full 30 seconds to get out as much liquidas I could. And somehow, there was just as much in there the next time I drained it. (Alternate title for this post: And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Grease.)
Oven-Browned Potatoes; main text Nonnie’s, italicized asides my own
Use only new or red potatoes. [Or what was in your CSA, if you’re being a thrifty cheater like me. But look how pretty!] Peel and slice potatoes about 1/2″ thick. Pat dry.
Melt 2-3 tablespoons butter in a 9″ square baking dish in a 300° oven. [I went with the lower amount, because I fear that Small Portions is gradually filling my arteries with goo.] When butter is melted, remove dish from oven and grease sides of dish by turning dish from side to side. Dip each potato slice in melted butter and make layers of the slices.
[Newsflash: This is impossible to do as written! Once you make one layer, there’s no way to “dip” the second layer of potatoes in the butter, since said butter is already in the dish. I made an attempt to MacGyver it before giving up, dumping in all the potatoes, and kind of shaking them around until they were all coated with butter. Then I made the layers.]
Put a little salt, pepper, and paprika on each layer. Bake in a 450° oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until potatoes are brown. [Which, yes, means that they can’t be baking at the same time as the loaf; I made mine the following day, roasting them alongside a whole bunch of root vegetables tossed in cider vinaigrette. They’re pictured in all their rainbow coalition glory below.] Turn layers about every 15 minutes.
The Verdict: Do you, like me, tend to gravitate toward olive oil as your cooking fat of choice because the lamestream media has you convinced it’s the healthy option? If so, know this: Butter is good. Like, really good. And a little bit of it goes a very long way. Using two tablespoons for the 1.5 pounds or so of potatoes I had on hand meant that a decent amount of it got left behind in the pan — but every tater slice was still thoroughly infused, making for a satisfying mound of buttery, crispy flakes.
And they weren’t bad to look at, either — especially as part of this balanced breakfast.