Thursday, November 5, 2009



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 the weather in L.A. has warmed up again, I can almost feel the brisk fall air that friends back east are talking about and brisk fall air makes me think of more wintery fare.  Meatloaf.

When I was 'between marriages' Helen, one of my best friend's mom,  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).  Helen lived in an upper east side 5th 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, books, theater and work (both my BFF and I were theatrical agents 'in training' at the time - she in the literary department -- me in television).  Our glass of sherry finished, we'd then 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.  Tonight is 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 tonite, a baked potato (with some chopped chives from our garden) - and throw in a side of steamed veggie such as asparagus or string beans or broccoli with a splash of balsamic and you have fine dining. 

Well, you'll feel fine dining, at least.  That's comforting.  And one of the most comforting things about comfort food is its ability to bring back memories... such as those wonderful dinners of Eleanor's in Helen's New York apartment.


MickMil said...

Terrific memory piece.

It made my think of my grandmother's meatloaf.

Unlike most of the other grandmothers, mine was not a particularly good cook. I think so many years of cooking for a family of eight had dulled her interest in it by the time I sat at her table. But other than her shredded raw carrots, with no dressing, my favorite dish of hers was meatloaf,
with the hard boiled egg waiting secretly for anyone lucky enough to rate a middle slice. And it was always the kids who rated it. Sometimes of the loaf was big enough, two eggs were hidden inside.

It was a little bit of heaven, balancing a perfect bite on the fork---a good chunk of savory meatloaf with a small piece of the bright yellow yolk and taste of the egg white that had the juice of the meat roasted in.

It wasn't until I was the age of learning life's lessons that I found out the not every meatloaf had an egg tucked inside it by a loving grandmother. It was a tough lesson to learn.

Thanks for making me remember.

Alexandra said...

Delicious! Having some friends over for dinner tonight and I've just decided I'll make meatloaf and smashed potatoes. We're hitting record highs here in CO (high of 80 today!) but I too feel fall in the air.

Yum. Thanks for the inspiration!

ilona saari said...

Thanx for sharing your memory, Michael, I loved it... I still want to get the nerve to try that hardboiled egg thing ;o) --
And how was your meatloaf last nite, Alexandra? Hope if it was delicious and satisfying and brought back wonderful memories.

Richard said...

I can't remember if my mother ever made meatloaf. But I've had THIS meatloaf for many years now... so I can wax rhapsodic about my wife's meatloaf. Oh, and I once covered a Meatloaf concert for a TV show I was working on. He didn't have a hard boiled egg in him, though. Or maybe he did. Who knows what those rock stars request in their dressing rooms.

Sandra in Michigan said...

Everyone loves meatloaf!!! Early in my marriage more than 50 years ago we didn't have the abundance of prepared foods we do today. I had to learn to cook, and Mom never got around to, or I was not interested in learning how to cook. But I did learn to make meatloaf from some cookbook. Not gourmet, but suits us fine. I use eggs, bread, milk, chili sauce, chopped onions and peppers, hamburg and pork sausage. Unless I'm feeding lots, I place in small loaf pans to freeze to bake another day. Never heard of the egg in the middle, but sounds intriguing.

ilona saari said...

Love the sausage idea, Sandra -- I can just imagine how great that taste would be in a meatloaf. Do you cook the sausage a little before adding it to the mix?

ilona saari said...

PS - sounds as gourmet as anyone else's ;o)