We’ve been so spoiled here in the Pacific Northwest this past year. While the rest of the world rested in their assumptions that we are continually plagued by perpetual dampness, we were let in on several secret seasons of sunshine and warmth. Sun breaks extended well beyond hours and into days, even weeks. I began to worry, and very honestly still do, about the lack of snowcaps on surrounding mountain peaks. But I too enjoyed the benefits of California-like weather…at least, Northern California-like.
Of course, complacency tends to breed rude awakenings, and ours has come. Just as we settled into the belief that sunny was the new norm, fall returned in a one-two punch with El Niño, and rain falls once more. I really am not complaining. Rain is what keeps this region so beautiful. Grass and plants have perked up. Rivers are gaining strength. Once again, snow blankets mountains in the distance. And we residents must seek our warmth from the inside out.
Last week, on a particularly rainy day, I had a strong craving for meatloaf. I’m not even sure if I’ve ever made meatloaf before! Alas, if I want it now, I can’t rely on the corner diner. (Granted, I haven’t really relied on corner diners since fleeing Brooklyn.) Most meatloaf contains bread crumbs, which rest solidly on my “no” list. So, I hit up my old friend Pinterest for a little pinspiration.
I landed on Pip & Ebby’s Best Ever Meatloaf for the simple fact that it was, well, simple. Meatloaf shouldn’t be an all-day affair. This version also used Ritz crackers as a binder which I knew, after my foray into squash casserole, would be easy to substitute. A couple of other adaptations were also required, due to the ingredients I had on hand.
Here is my version of Pip & Ebby’s lovely ingredients in a bowl shot. Haha. Not nearly as organized, or well labeled. Hey, don’t judge – it’s all going to get mushed up in a second anyway! Note that the one major change I made inside the meatloaf was adding a bit of chopped carrot. I like carrots, and they add just a smidge of extra nutrition. I traded out a bit of onion to make room. My guess is that this resulted in about 1/2 c. onion and carrot combined.
I had my doubts that everything was going to fit into the loaf pan, but it worked out quite well. Careful not to overstuff! I also prefer to leave some grooves in the top rather than smoothing it too much, so that the glaze can seep into the crevices.
In fact, I went ahead and put a little bit of the sauce on before putting it in the oven, just to give it a head start. I didn’t have any brown sugar, so I substituted 1/3 c. of molasses instead. Not a single ounce of suffering resulted.
As instructed, I added most of the sauce at the halfway point. I don’t think you can see it here, but there are little chunks of apricot in there! Every great sauce needs a secret ingredient, and here it’s apricot preserves. Before you squinch up your nose, I will tell you that RF didn’t say word one about it…and we all know how he feels about cooked fruit. You really cannot detect it at all, but it adds an extra hint of sweetness to the ketchup/Wostershire mix.
Honestly, my biggest regret was not adding to sauce sooner in the process. I really love it when the top gets super caramelized, almost to the point of there being some burnt bits – like tomato sauce around the edge of lasagna. The sauce was certainly gooey and delicious, but definitely not as reduced as I prefer.
I used 95% lean ground beef, but there was still a fair amount of fat burbling to the edges. At the risk of drying it out, I drained just a little bit off at the halfway point when I pulled it out to add the sauce, and then filled my measuring cup almost a 1/4 c. at the end before letting it rest. The finished product was still very moist, so I would recommend the same to you.
We enjoyed our slabs with a little extra sauce drizzled on top and broccoli on the side – it’s good to give the impression that some part of the meal is healthy. Of course, that can only last for so long! Leftovers were enjoyed with garlic mashed potatoes and peppery green beans from our favorite store deli. It was just as yummy on days 2 and 3 as on day 1. I recommend adding this one to your rainy/snowy day winter arsenal.