I grew up eating my grandma's meatloaf, which cooks alongside potato wedges, carrots, and peas in a delicious broth. I crave it often but wouldn't dare replicate it without her help.
What is Meatloaf?
In creating this recipe, I had to think– "what is it that makes a meatloaf so meatloafy?" Meatballs certainly aren't meatloaf. The shape has to be a loaf! Said loaf must be soft, not chewy. Hamburgers also aren't meatloaf. Shape aside, it must have flavors of garlic and onion, with both moisturizing and binding ingredients, served with potatoes of some kind. And finally, it absolutely must be glazed in some kind of ketchup-based sauce.
I've been using more umami-enhancing flavors in my day-to-day cooking, so I pursued that route by incorporating soy and Worcestershire sauces into this recipe. I also love to add hints of spice where I can, so cayenne and crused red pepper provide a whisper of spice.
I'd argue that adding spice to food, even if it's just a touch, is non-negotiable, like adding salt. I was torn between mashed and roasted potatoes, but settled on roasted for the sake of crunchy bits here and there. Finally, the mound of rich caramelized onions literally piles on another element of sweet, savory flavor, and just looks downright impressive.
- 1.3 lb ground pork/veal/beef "meatloaf mix". If your grocery store doesn't sell this combination, you can make it yourself by purchasing smaller packages of each, or simply choosing one or two. Ground chicken would also work.
- 3 Yukon Gold/ Butter Potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup of carrots, diced
- 1 Gala apple, peeled and diced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- Olive oil, 1/4c, 1tsp, 1Tb for various steps in the process
- 1/8c plain breadcrumbs (or toast a couple slices of bread and crumble them up to make your own breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 of a yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Soy sauce, 2tsp and 1/2 tsp for different steps in the process
- Ketchup, 1/8c and 1/4c for different steps in the process
- 1/8c milk (Any kind works. I've used oat milk, 1%, and even half & half in the past)
- 1/4c grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 3/8c parsley, chopped
- 2tsp maple syrup (use honey if you dont have syrup)
- 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 large sweet onions, sliced (FYI, Vidalia is a brand of sweet onions.)
- Salt, freshly cracked black pepper, cayenne, and crushed red pepper for seasoning. (Freshly cracked pepper is much more flavorful than pre-ground. I love my Unicorn Pepper Grinder and bulk peppercorns from Amazon.com)
- Mise en place: Preheat oven to 400F. Dice the yellow onion and garlic and set aside in a small bowl. Chop parsley and place into a large bowl. Peel and dice potatoes, apple, and carrots, and spread them onto a baking sheet. Toss with 1/4c olive oil, thyme, 2tsp salt, and several cracks of black pepper. Place on the middle rack in your oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove vegetables from oven, toss them, and create an oblong space in the center of the pan where the meatloaf will be palced.
- While vegetables are getting a head start on their roasting, make your meatloaf mixture. Heat a small skillet with 1tsp olive oil and saute the yellow onion and garlic with a pinch of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Move them around frequently to keep them from burning. Once soft and starting to brown, deglaze the pan with 1/2tsp soy sauce and 1/2tsp water. Once liquid evaporates, which will happen quickly, remove pan from heat to cool.
- In the large bowl already containing parsley, add the ground meat, egg, 1/8c ketchup, milk, parmesan, breadcrumbs, cooled onion/garlic mixture, 1.5 tsp salt (three 3-finger pinches), and 5 cracks of black pepper. Use your clean hands to combine, but don't over mix. Stop mixing as soon as everything is incorporated to prevent meat from becoming tough. Form meatloaf into an oblong or rectangular shape and place it in the center of the baking sheet.
- Wash your hands, then make your sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the other 1/4c ketchup, 2tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp Worcestershire, and a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Pour the sauce all over the meatloaf. Place meatloaf in the oven for 20 minutes. Take it out briefly to stir the vegetables. Return to oven for another 20 minutes. You can take its temperature at the end with an instant read thermometer to make sure it's cooked. Meatloaf should reach an internal temperature of at least 150F. Mine reached 160F. Let it rest for 4 minutes.
- While meatloaf is cooking, make the caramelized onions. Slice the 2 sweet onions. In a large skillet over a medium-high flame, heat 1TB olive oil and place onions in the pan with 2 big pinches of salt, about a teaspoon. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become dark caramel in color. If they start to blacken, lower the heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring more frequently, but don't be afraid of some parts blackening– when they're done cooking, they will not taste burnt.
- Place 2 slices of meatloaf on each plate, surround them with roasted vegetables, and top with a heaping pile of onions. Use a slotted spoon to plate the vegetables if you'd prefer to leave excess olive oil behind.