Meatloaf – The Ultimate Comfort Food
Every time we venture back to Nebraska, my mother meets my hubby at the door with her meatloaf. Give him meatloaf, and the man will follow you anywhere. What is it about men and meatloaf? Don’t get me wrong; I love a good meatloaf, and I enjoy my mother’s meatloaf as much as everyone else in the family. It’s juicy, covered with ketchup, and topped with slices of bacon, but for this post, I have something completely different in mind.
One of my favorite dishes growing up while eating out with Grandpa at the sale barn, or at the local diner and country cafe, was to order a hot roast beef sandwich. A Hot Roast Beef sandwich is made of slices or roast beef placed between two pieces of white bread, cut in half with a big scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle and all covered with brown roast beef gravy. I love me some good gravy, not on the healthy side of things, but now and then, you just have to jump off into the daring and adventurous side of life.
Returning home from helping my mother move out of our family home and into a condo, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy. What better thing to do but give me, myself, and I, some comfort food? I wanted meatloaf, but I also wanted brown gravy full of all kinds of goodness. Thus my recipe for Farmhouse Meatloaf and Caramelized Onion Gravy was born. Let the venture begin!
Just look at that scrumptious meatloaf and that G-r-a-v-y! I am willing to admit it; I might have overdone it when making the gravy, but dang it, I wanted a rich, full-bodied, brown gravy, make me feel good, take care of the homesick blues comfort food, and this I accomplished. Tomorrow back to the gym, but for now, come to momma!
Let’s get to cooking! Farmhouse Meatloaf, coming right up!
To keep a cook from feeling overwhelmed, when making any dish, I usually suggest gathering your ingredients first. It’s not a good experience to begin prepping and cooking a dish, just to find you are out of a crucial ingredient.
My Farmhouse Meatloaf begins by sauteeing the onions and celery in a little good olive oil; this, of course, takes place after you dice the onions and celery to the size of a small dice (1/4″) more or less squared.
Hint & Tip: When adding vegetables to a meatloaf, saute them first. Why? Because when adding raw vegetables to a meatloaf mix, while baking in the oven, the vegetables will shrink leaving holes in your meatloaf. Secondly, when you saute your vegetables first, you will begin your recipe by building layers of flavor.
At this point, I must digress. Jumping a little ahead in this recipe post, you will see I have an aha moment with this step and a teaching on Mirepoix. My recipe will include onions, celery, and carrots, in which I have no pictures of such. Just pretend you can see beautifully cut carrots added to the saute mix.
The easiest way to cut celery into a small dice is to divide the stock into two sections. One section will be the narrow end, and the other section will be the wider end. Cut each section into 3 or 4 strips. Place the strips together, hold tightly and cut small, 1/4″ pieces off the strips. Viola’ -Perfection at the cutting board. Warning: While holding your celery to cut into a dice, make sure your fingers are out of the way.
Note: I will be preparing a lesson on cutting skills and Classic Knife Cuts in the very near future. Stay tuned for more updates.
Making Farmhouse Meatloaf 101
Following the picture tutorial above, beginning on the top left, and reading as you would a book, I have put together the steps in bringing it all together.
- Gather the ingredients
- Chop the (Mirepoix =) onions, celery, and carrots to a small dice (1/4″) squared, more or less
- Cook and cool the Mirepoix and add it to the hamburger
- Mix the milk, eggs, and fresh herbs and add it to the meat and Mirepoix mix
- Grind the Panko in a food processor to a semi-medium / small crumb (or place the Panko in a ziplock bag and run a rolling pin back and forth to grind)
- Mix the Mirepoix and the milk/egg mixture into the hamburger, gently
- Add the Panko and gently mix
- Place the meat mixture on a parchment lined sheet tray and pat out flat
- Form the meat mixture into a loaf, bake
Hint & Tip: When forming the meat mixture, pat it out flat before forming the loaf. In so doing, you will eliminate air bubbles while it bakes.
Mirepoix, my aha moment! (Note, my finished recipe does not include shredded carrots, but instead, includes small chopped onions, carrots, and celery.)
One of the very first things I learned in Culinary School, was knife skills and the second thing I learned was all about Mirepoix. Mirepoix is uniformly chopped vegetables cut to the same size, usually a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery; the traditional ratio is two parts onion, one part carrots, and one part celery. Most all good classic recipes begin with Mirepoix. The mix of carrots, celery, and onions begin the layering process for flavor. Why oh why did I not think of this when I began my Farmhouse Meatloaf? Who knows? I corrected my mistake and added shredded raw carrots to the meat mix before I formed it into a loaf to bake. You would be much better off to begin the right way listed in the recipe.
Right out of the oven! Can you smell it?
Baked meatloaf right out of the oven, and resting before I dig right in. Smells great looks great, can’t wait.
Hint & Tip: Baking meatloaf on parchment paper will save you time in clean up. The meatloaf will not stick to the pan and will remove easily when sliced into serving pieces.
Serving below is Farmhouse Meatloaf, Caramelized Onion G-r-a-v-y, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. Mashed Potatoes are a much better option if you are in need for COMFORT food. Roasted potatoes would be a better option in the healthy department; that is if you make mashed potatoes like I make mashed potatoes.
Making Caramelized Onion Gravy
Begin with butter and onion. Right there you know this is going to be some kick-butt gravy. Just sayin’!
May I suggest you begin your gravy as soon as you place the meatloaf in the oven to bake. It does take some time to caramelize onions, and this is a process that can’t be rushed. At least, I have not discovered a method to speed this process up, as of yet. To multitask in the kitchen, begin to caramelize the onions as you put together the meatloaf.
Melt the butter in a heavy pan, over medium to medium-low heat and add the sliced onions. Let it cook down, stirring often. Keep your eye on the process, so you do not burn the onions. As you can see in my second photo above, I just about let that happen, but not to worry. All turned out delicious! In comparing the color of the white spatula and the caramelized onions, this color is a good color to aim for when making this gravy. However, you can take the onions to a darker caramelization if you like. It’s your call.
Once the onions have cooked to your liking, the flour will be added to make a roux. Stir and let cook for several minutes. Add the remaining ingredients according to the recipe below. Once all the ingredients have been added to the pot, let the gravy simmer to the desired thickness. A good rule of thumb is to see how much gravy adheres to the spatula and the side of the pot.
Hint & Tip: When adding raw flour to make a roux, it must be cooked for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour taste before adding the liquid, and to create the desired color and thickness for the
Farmhouse Meatloaf recipe below!
CARAMELIZED ONION GRAVY
This recipe for Caramelized Onion Gravy is great to make a day ahead to save you time in the kitchen when preparing dinner. Just preheat and presto, you have a rich and decadent topping for Farmhouse Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
- 3 sweet onions, quartered and sliced
- 1½ sticks butter, unsalted
- 4 tablespoons AP Flour
- 3 cups beef stock, unsalted
- 2 sprigs fresh Thyme
- 1½ teaspoons Kosher salt, up to 2 teaspoons or to taste
- 1 teaspoon black freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium/low heat.
- Add the sliced onions and stir to coat.Cook the onions down to a rich caramel color, stirring often. Stay close to the stove as the onions can burn. This process may take up to an hour.
- Once the onions have reached the desired color, sprinkle the flour on top and stir immediately. Continue stirring until a roux forms and the flour flavor is cooked out. This process may take around 2 minutes.
- Add the room temperature beef stock and stir to combine.
- Add the fresh Thyme sprigs, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the desired thickness is present. Remove what is left of the Thyme sprigs.Taste for seasoning
This gravy is not hard to make even though it may take a little time. Believe me, it is worth the effort.
Give me gravy, brown and full of onions and loaded with layers of flavor on top of Farmhouse Meatloaf!
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Farmhouse Meatloaf from grandmother's table flavored with herbs, Worcestershire sauce, carrots, onions, celery and topped with caramelized onion gravy. LOVE | farmhousekitchensandfrenchpears.com
- 6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of your saute pan
- 2 cups sweet yellow onions, small chop
- 1 1/2 cup celery, small chop
- 1 1/2 cup carrots, small chop
- 3 lbs hamburger, 80/20 % (for a leaner meatloaf use grass-fed)
- 1 tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh Chives, chopped
- 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup milk, 2 % or whole milk
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 cups Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs found in most grocery stores)
- *See notes regarding the onions, celery, and carrots
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet, 12 inches or larger.
- Add the Mirepoix, carrots, celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the onion is translucent. Do not brown. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, herbs, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, and pepper
- Pour the liquid mixture over the hamburger in a large mixing bowl.
- Grind the Panko in a food processor to a medium/fine grind. (You may grind by placing the Panko in a zip lock bag and smashing it with a rolling pin moving back and forth.
- Add the ground Panko to the meat mixture, with clean or gloved hands, and gently toss, to combine, but not compact.
- Place meatloaf mixture on a parchment lined sheet pan and patted flat.
- Remold the meatloaf mixture into a loaf shape.
- Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the middle reads 160°
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
If the raw meatloaf mixture seems too loose, add additional 1/4 cup of ground Panko. For a leaner meatloaf, use grass-fed beef.
*When first creating this recipe, I added shredded carrots as a last minute correction. (Pictured in the post.) This recipe is based on those corrections. No shredded carrots as I changed the recipe to chopped carrots, celery, and onions, known as Mirepoix. Mirepoix is uniformly chopped vegetables cut to the same cooking size, usually a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery; the traditional ratio is two parts onion, one part carrots, and one part celery, known as the Trinity in French Cooking.