Some of you have heard the story. Some years ago, while I prepared a menu for Christmas dinner for the extended family, I sought a secondary main course that might suit simpler tastes, particularly those of the youngest cousin, who must have been 7 or 8 at the time. I asked my husband what he might like, thinking I would hear “turkey,” because he’s not a fan of ham or of the prime rib planned for the rest of us.
But he said, “Meat loaf.”
And I said, “But this is supposed to be a festive meal!”
And he said, “I think meat loaf is very festive.”
I must admit that meat loaf did not form a staple in my cooking. I tried it when Pure Luck and I were dating, because it’s a favorite for him, but after the Event of the Suicidal Meat Loaf — a Martha Stewart recipe cooked on parchment paper on a baking rack, set aside to do whatever it is they do before you cut them, which somehow upended itself on the kitchen floor, after which he took me out to dinner — well, I lost my nerve.
Until he told me he believed in the festive nature of meat loaf, and I decided to try again.
Thus came into being the Festive Holiday Meat Loaf celebrated in various forms by our family over the past five or six years. (We’ve even made a turkey version for non-meat eaters.)
When I shared this tradition with St. Casserole, and she mentioned it to her husband, Mr. C, he misheard and thought she said something about the “Festival of Meat Loaf.” We try to celebrate it when I go to visit them, and there has been great hilarity at that festival, particularly the year the potatoes got locked in the oven overnight.
Today, with our non-meat eater out of town on a youth trip, I have prepared the Summer Festival of Meat Loaf, in honor of Pure Luck’s return. As is true of most of my recipes, there are eccentricities and variations in the preparation of the Meat Loaf, but it will always and forever be festive.
Below please find my recipe, adapted from various sources and strongly influenced by one’s intuitive cooking style:
Summer Festival of Meat Loaf
Ground beef, the 85% fat kind because a nice man at the meat counter once told me that was best, approximately 1.8 pounds because that’s how they sell it, and since the recipe calls for one and a half, adjustments are required.
Bread crumbs, 1.5 cups (I used the Progresso plain version)
Milk, 1.5 cups plus a smidge because it was the end of the carton
2 eggs, because the recipe in Betty Crocker called for 1 but this is more meat
1/2 a Vidalia Onion chopped small, but not exactly fine, Vidalia being the key to a SUMMER Festival of Meat Loaf
Salt, sage and dry mustard–rather indefinite amounts, poured into my hand first, less salt than Betty Crocker suggests, but more sage and mustard
Ground pepper–much less than called for because the pepper grinder doesn’t work very well
Worcestershire sauce–something like a Tablespoon, but really a little more
Garlic salt–a sprinkle, because I forgot I had real garlic and am just seeing it now
Mix all these things together by hand. I take my rings off, because it would not be festive to find them in the meat loaf later.
Remember that old Martha Stewart recipe that jumped off the ledge and consider the possibility of cooking this immense meat loaf on the roasting pan. Mold it into loaf shape and then remember why you used parchment paper. Get out a loaf pan and hope for the best.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours.
We had cooked teeny tiny carrots with a little olive oil and slightly mashed red potatoes with butter, a teeny bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Pure Luck likes his with ketchup, but I prefer a little barbecue sauce.