Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.

Oh, how I've hated meatloaf. It induces a reaction very much like Randy's in A Christmas Story. I don't recall a time that I ever actually liked the stuff. Dry, bland, and invariably soaked in a river of ketchup in a vain attempt to give it some sort of "oomph" is generally not my idea of palatable food.

To my chagrin, Kevin loves meatloaf. If he can't decide on something from the menu, I tell him to get the meatloaf and he does, and he's happy.

Then I found recipes for...Crockpot meatloaf. It piqued my interest, and I set out to make a surprise treat for my dear meatloaf-loving better half.

My first problem with meatloaf was always how dry it usually is. But if I were to cook it carefully in a Crockpot, I could probably retain a good amount of moisture. There may not be any need for gravy or ketchup!
As to the second problem - the bland flavor - it could also be easily remedied with judicious use of cooking liquid and some creative spice usage.

Hot damn, I may be on to something here!

Having never made meatloaf before (seriously.), I recalled a Good Eats episode where my venerated Alton Brown addressed just this issue, and I hastened to dig up his recipe. I now had a handful of existing recipes and a different cooking method to work with.

I picked bits and pieces from the different recipes and adjusted for what I had on hand. Then, since this was meant to be a special treat for Kevin, I included some of his favorite flavors (namely, the mustard). When all was said and done, I came up with....

Not Your Mama's Meatloaf

Makes 1 large meatloaf
Special equipment: a 5qt or larger Crockpot, Vegeta seasoning mix, heavy-duty aluminum foil
Note: plan ahead for a cooking time of 12 or more hours!

2.5lbs ground chuck
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium onion, minced or shredded
Store-bought Ceasar seasoned croutons, pulverized
3 beef bullion cubes dissolved in 1 cup of hot water
2 cloves garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
Yellow mustard
A-1 sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Vegeta seasoning mix, dry mustard, thyme, kosher salt, pepper
Red wine vinegar

Prepare the Crockpot:
Take a length of foil and crumple it loosely. Place it in the bottom of the Crockpot. This will keep the meatloaf from sitting in the cooking liquid and cooked-out fat and getting soggy.
Take another length of foil, about 30" long. Fold it in half lengthwise and tuck it in the Crockpot so the two ends stick out and form the "handles" you'll later use to move the meatloaf around.

All mixing is done with your hands. Don't squeeze or handle the mixture roughly. Be gentle!
Place beef in a very large bowl and add the eggs and onion. Mix well with your hands, using a light touch. Add the pulverized croutons a bit at a time until the mixture easily comes together in a ball.
Add a healthy squirt of yellow mustard, probably about 3 tablespoons' worth. Add a shot of A-1 sauce. Add the garlic. Mix well.
Add 1 tablespoon of Vegeta, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Now is the time to make your final adjustments for consistency. If the mixture is very wet and loose, add more pulverized croutons. If it's dry and crumbly, add some of the beef bullion water.

Remove your foil "sling" from the Crockpot.
Divide the mixture in half. On the piece of foil, form the first half into a flat round or oval shape that will fit your Crockpot.
Place 1 cup of shredded cheddar on the mixture, staying within 1/2" from the edges. Don't be afraid to mound it up tall!
Carefully shape the rest of the mixture over top of the cheese, being sure to seal the seam.

Use the foil "sling" to place the meatloaf in your Crockpot, placing it directly on top of the crumpled foil you put in the bottom earlier.
Pour a shot of red wine vinegar on the meatloaf, then carefully add the remaining beef bullion water to the bottom of the Crockpot. Fold the foil "handles" down over the top and pop the lid on.
Cook on low heat for 12-14 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 165*.

Yes, I know it's an awkward cooking time. You could let it go overnight, which is what I did, then stick it in the fridge and reheat in the oven before dinner.

And thus has ended my 30 year hatred of meatloaf.
As we ate, I asked Kevin what he thought of it, and he glowered at me. "I can't talk now, can't you see I'm stuffing my face??"


Rosie said...


I was the same way until I ate my hubbie's meatloaf...ummmm that sounded really wrong didn't it?

Well anyhow - glad to hear you are a convert...

Chellie said...

Well....I never liked pork (other than bacon and ham and stuff) until I ate my hubby's pork.
So if it sounds wrong, I don't want to be right!! :D