Nearly every cook has his or her very own meat loaf recipe. Mine has a lot of “traditional’’ meat loaf touches. It’s very rich, thanks to all that cheese, and, like any meat loaf worth its ground beef, it does well hot, cold, or in between. The texture is unusually supple, fluffy, and tender, especially if you don’t manhandle the meat mix before baking it. For a smokier and spicier loaf, finely chop and add 2 to 3 minced, canned chipotle peppers in adobo to the meat mixture. Start this a good two hours before serving. Don’t let this loaf ooze too little or too much, and do use a meat thermometer.
- 1 Cup fresh bread crumbs (you may need somewhat more)
- 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1½-inch lengths
- 2 large or 3 medium onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered, stemmed, and seeded
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ⅓ cup low-sodium beef broth
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce (vaguely optional)
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Pound ground beef chuck (15 percent fat)
- ½ Pound ground pork
- ½ Pound ground veal
- ½ Pound sweet sausage, casings removed
- 8 Ounces Monterey Jack cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups)
- ½ Cup ketchup
- 5 to 6 slices thick-cut bacon, halved crosswise
First, if you need to, make the fresh bread crumbs in the work bowl of your food processor by pulsing torn chunks of bread. (You might as well make plenty of extra crumbs and freeze them in a sealed plastic bag. They keep for several months.) Rinse out the work bowl.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Pulse the garlic, scallions, onions, and bell pepper in the bowl of a food processor, in the order in which they are listed, until minced, but not mushy. The onion mixture will be fairly wet. Add it to the hot butter in the skillet, cover, and sweat the mixture for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir, still over medium-low heat, for 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to brown lightly and the liquids have evaporated. Remove from the heat and let the mixture approach room temperature.
Line a shallow baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with edges at least 1 inch high with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and soy sauce until well blended.
In a large bowl, lightly combine the ground beef, pork, veal, sausage, cheese, and bread crumbs with your squeaky clean hands. Don’t overmix—use a light touch. Then add the egg mixture and the cooled onion-pepper mixture and blend well, still with a light touch. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish or pan. Shape the meat into an oval mound about 2½ inches high at its thickest point and smooth the top. Using a rubber spatula, spread the ketchup evenly over the loaf, and arrange the bacon strips over the ketchup, tucking the strips under the loaf.
Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F. Let the loaf rest in its formidable juices for 10 minutes before slicing.