Everyone has a meatloaf recipe, right? I've had a bunch. I've tried meatloaf recipes from umpteen cookbooks, and it never ends up being what I want it to be: juicy and flavorful without crunchy bits in it, with a sauce on top that complements without overwhelming. After lots of experimentation (remember, I have 50 pounds of ground beef in my freezer), much of it prompted by make-do situations, I think I've hit on it: my ideal meatloaf.
I realized it after one bite, proclaiming to Abe that this was the best meatloaf I'd ever made. He agreed. The good news: it is even better the next day on a sandwich, which is (let's be honest) the real reason meatloaf exists.
So, hey: give this a try! It's easy. And juicy and flavorful and delicious.
2 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped (how finely you chop the onion and celery depends on your personal preference.)
2 Tbsp. parsley
Salt to taste
4 Tbsp. butter
4 slices white sandwich bread, crumbled (don't stress about this too much--just tear into pieces.)
2/3 c. milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. pepper
For the Glaze:
1/2 c. ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the celery, parsley, and onion in the butter until the celery and onion are tender. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, add the bread pieces, salt, pepper, and milk. Make sure the bread is all covered with the milk and allow to soften for just a minute or so, until the bread is all soupy and soggy. This is a very important step. Then, add the ground beef and eggs to the bread mixture, toss in the cooled onion, celery, parsley, and butter, and combine well. I do this with my hands, since I've never found a spoon to be effective in mixing the ground beef.
In a small bowl, combine ingredients for the glaze and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with sides with foil. It is important that you use a pan with sides, since the meatloaf will give off a bit of fat and you don't want it to spill all over the bottom of your oven. Now: You can either shape this into one large loaf, two smaller loaves, or tiny individual loaves. I usually do two loaves, for two reasons: 1) it speeds up the cooking process somewhat, and 2)then I can have slices the next day for my sandwich. But obviously, you can do whatever you want; just adjust the cooking time accordingly. At any rate, slather the top with the glaze before you pop it into the oven.
True confession time: I use a digital cooking thermometer set at 160 degrees, stick the probe in the middle of one of the meatloaves and just wait for the alarm to go off, so I don't set a timer for the meatloaf and don't therefore know exactly how long it will take. Also, your cooking time will vary according to how wide/deep your loaf is. But if I had to guess at cooking times, I'd guess thusly:
One large loaf: approx. 1-1.5 hours
Two medium loaves: 45 min to 1 hour
4-6 mini loaves: 30-40 min.
No pink should remain, and any exposed beef should be a nice, deep brown. Remove from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes (makes it easier to cut), then dive in and enjoy!