I know most people think of meatloaf as "comfort" food - well, I think it's "fine dining." It's also "recession" food. It's cheap. You can usually get two meals for the price of one. It can be "gourmet." It can be healthful. AND, it's delicious.
Even though L.A. isn’t known for its seasons, the city does have them (sort of) and lately I can feel the fall briskness in the air that I remember from my east coast days… and brisk fall air makes me think of more winter-y fare. Meatloaf!
When I was “between marriages” Helen, one of my best friend’s moms, used to have my BFF, her sister and me over for dinner once a month. Sometimes other friends of BFF and sister would join us. Helen was a fascinating woman with a fascinating past, personally and politically, and I loved listening to her stories. She was a career woman who'd been divorced for many years (her ex, BFF's father, had been a physicist and was a popular sci-fi novelist back in the day– one book even turned into a movie).
Helen lived in an upper east side Fifth Avenue apartment with Eleanor, her amazing housekeeper. And though Eleanor never joined us for dinner, she was the chief cook for our all-girl dinner parties. My favorite Eleanor meal was her meatloaf with a hard boiled egg smack in the middle.
I have fond memories sipping sherry before dinner as we talked about politics. Helen would tell us tales about the Manhattan project, the Rosenbergs, ban the bomb marches and the early freedom riders, and how the “Hollywood” black list changed the lives of many of her political and literary friends, her husband and, of course, her. We discussed literature, theater and work (both my BFF and I were theatrical agents 'in training' at the time - she in the literary department -- me in television) and, when our glasses of sherry were empty, we'd go to the dining room and eat that wonderful meatloaf. I remember that meatloaf more than anyone else's, even my mom's. And I miss Helen and those dinners.
I learned to make meatloaf the way most people did "back then" - with hamburger. But I never tried the hard boiled egg - I was always afraid it would go bad or something (and we all know what a bad egg smells like - not a great aroma to fill the house if you're having guests). Occasionally, I still make very lean ground beef meatloaf and I've been known to make meatloaf from ground lamb and ground veal when I've seen that on sale. But, the meatloaf I usually make is from ground turkey. Last night was a ground turkey meatloaf night.
I've made it so often over the years that I don't have a clue what the measurements are for any of the ingredients which include ketchup, of course (unless you like tomato paste). Then there's Worcestershire sauce, corn/wheat flakes (or whatever unsweetened cold cereal I have in the house), a bit of mustard, dry tarragon and basil (unless I have fresh), garlic powder, onion powder, a dash of salt, ground pepper, sometimes I finely chop an onion instead of using the onion powder... you know the drill. You all have your favorite ingredients for flavoring that give it that personal "gourmet" touch. I do not, however, use a raw egg for binding. No real reason. Just don't.
Once it's all mushed together and molded into my Pyrex baking dish, I drizzle honey on top, but not too much (a trick I learned from my girlfriend Susan many years ago). Love the way it makes the top of the meatloaf taste. The wheat flakes (Total is one brand), the low fat ground turkey, the herbs and spices all make it taste great, yet healthful. The drizzled honey... well, maybe that's my gourmet.
Paired with garlic mashed potatoes or, like last night, a baked potato (with some chopped chives from our garden) - and throw in a side of steamed veggies such as asparagus or string beans or broccoli with a splash of balsamic and you have fine dining.