…and so it came to pass, three pounds of lean ground beef defrosted and I am clueless as to what to do with it. I had a game plan when I took it out of the freezer, but the idea just seems unappetizing suddenly. Writers get “writer’s block”, so shouldn’t a cook get “I don’t feel like cooking now block”? *sigh* but the meat is defrosted, can’t be refrozen and finances dictate that eating at a restaurant is not feasible.
Personal recipe book out, flipping through the pages, looking for a meal that can be made without too much effort. Aha! The old time favorite that seems to bring a sense of comfort and satisfies…meatloaf! What to serve with it though? So tired of mashed potatoes with a vegetable; wait, wait, I have leftover homemade macaroni and cheese. Oh dear, that’s when the desire for something simple and easy got kicked into creative gear.
Of course, no article on cooking will be complete without a bit of historical referencing. Meatloaf was not an American culinary invention; sorry to burst your bubble Betty Crocker. A manuscript, called an Apicius, dating back to 900 A.D., is a collections of recipes; one being a loaf made of minced meat (real meat, not the fruity stuff put into pies). The Apicius was named for Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived during the reign of Tiberius. American meatloaf’s origin began with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish and Mennonite) who brought a recipe for scrapple (mixture of cornmeal and ground pork) from their homeland, Germany.
Basic of meatloaf, a ground meat mixed with some type of ground grain, maybe seasoned with herbs and spices, then baked or smoked. The “loaf” part of the name indicates the cooking was done in a loaf pan of some type which made for easily portioned slices. Served with brown gravy, that’s Swedish style; stuffed with hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese is welcome to Italy; ketchup, tomato sauce or brown sugar glaze on top and hello to the USA. International cuisines have developed their own styles as trading of goods introduced new foods, spices and cooking techniques.
What happened with my basic meatloaf? I took the macaroni and cheese and served it up of course, inside the meatloaf. That’s right, I stuffed it! The aroma in the kitchen was awesome, but the taste of the final product was out of this world.
3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 (12 oz.) bag dried stuffing cubes
1 cup milk
1 (15.5 oz. can) diced tomatoes with sweet onions (available at Blue Mountain Foods)
1 cup diced green bell pepper
2 Tbsp. saltless seasoning mix
1 tsp. ground black pepper
5 cups macaroni and cheese (see Note)
Ketchup for glazing
Preheat oven to 375F; line a 4 quart baking dish with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except the macaroni and cheese and the ketchup. Invert bowl over center of jelly roll pan and deposit mixture onto it. Flatten mixture out to edges of pan. Cut macaroni and cheese into 3 sections and line up edge to edge down lengthwise center of flattened meatloaf mixture.
Put hands under lining and carefully lift mixture over filling, press down firmly and carefully peal back lining; repeat with other long side. Seal the seam over the filling and the sides of the meatloaf; smooth the meatloaf mixture over to create a firm seal.
Turn the baking dish over the meatloaf; with one hand hold down the baking dish while lifting the jelly roll pan with the other hand; flip over and let the meatloaf drop into the baking dish. Remove the lining off the meatloaf; make sure to position the meatloaf down the center of the baking dish; smooth over any cracks that may have opened. Brush ketchup over top and sides of meatloaf to create the glaze.
Place baking dish on center rack of oven and bake for one hour; brush a second layer of ketchup over the top and sides and bake for one additional hour.
The meatloaf will be too large to remove from the baking dish, so cut slices and use a narrow spatula to remove to a plate.
Makes 12-14 servings depending on how large the slices are cut.
Note: The Macaroni and Cheese used should have been made previously and refrigerated in a rectangular container to make for easier slicing. My macaroni and cheese is a 4-cheese recipe; perhaps I’ll share that in another article.