Before we begin, may I suggest that you who live in a home find a bit of dirt and stick some thyme in it? It grows like weed, and you can pick it in the winter. Altogether a lovely herb. I throw a few fresh sprigs in everything.
Now, like any quest for the perfect food, you need a good base. For me that’s Martha Stewart’s Classic Meat Loaf recipe. The mix of meats she recommends is perfect, as are the meat/veggie/bread ratios. I wouldn’t make this with less that the 2.25 lbs of meat recommended (the onions will kick you in the teeth otherwise), but you could certainly play with what meats you use! I dispense with the parsley altogether and substitute the divine thyme. I normally grab around 5 or 6 sprigs. I also save the heels from loaves of bread to make my crumbs (5 should be plenty).
I know, that’s disappointing, a Martha recipe and a substitution of thyme for parsley–but wait, there’s more!
Getting everything the right size and mixed well makes a difference. I like a food processor and a giant honking bowl. After you have you 2.5 cups of crumbs in your giant bowl, add your carrot, celery, thyme, and garlic to the food processor. If you’re tempted to do more than two cloves, I’d resist this time. Do a couple of quick pulses, just to get everything a little coarser, and then add the onion. If you add everything all at once, you’ll liquefy the onion while trying to get the carrot and celery nice and small.
My next deviation in the recipe involves making the sauce. Now, in the name of dirtying as few dishes as possible, I use a 1 cup container to measure the breadcrumbs. I then add about 1/4 a cup of ketchup to that, and get it into the bowl. Next, I add a little under a 1/2 cup of ketchup to the measuring cup. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, we’re making our glazing sauce in that measuring cup. I like to add mustard/Worcestershire sauce/Sriracha to both portions. I don’t measure! Sometimes it comes out spicier than others. Don’t forget to add the brown sugar to the glaze (I use some amount).
To mix stuff well, I tear little hunks off the meat, half of each kind, stir everything around, then tear up the remainder before getting all, “Yeah, meatloaf, squish, ah-huh.” I don’t actually say that. If anything I’m wishing I had a hand free for my Yuengling.
Here we’ve come to my last deviation–I like a free standing meatloaf. I generally set this up before I get all meat-fisted. Put some foil on a baking sheet, shiny side up, and spray it with Pam. You’d think meatloaf would be self-lubricating, but it sticks like a bitch! Now, form a loaf. I couldn’t tell you the dimensions of the ones I make beyond that I pat it into a pleasing shape. Now paint it all over with that tasty glaze.
I think it cooks quicker not in a loaf pan, but I normally leave it in for the full hour and twenty minutes because the ketchup gets tasty. It should be good in a hour (I’d whip out your thermometer and double check, as ovens do deviate).