Meatloaf is an intensely personal experience. Every family has a meatloaf recipe that is so dearly loved, it achieves iconic status. This family recipe should not be abridged or changed in any way or else the cook, in self-defense, should consider locking the kitchen door after serving his or her variation. This fall, a recipe for something called a “Meatloaf Cake” got a lot of play in the New York Times. As a lover of many meatloaves, I was quick to cook it up. I served it to Andrew and it was met with a ‘meh’. It was perfectly fine, if cloyingly sweet, and nothing to write home about. Although, had my last name been Romney, I am sure it would have been another experience altogether. It certainly is for one Mitt Romney, for whom it is reportedly the ultimate comfort food, eaten in good times and bad. Meatloaf has that effect on people. It is part memory and part magic meal, conjuring up visions of home and mashed potatoes and green beans. At least that’s the version I cook for the homeless shelter. (https://chewingthefat.us.com/2009/11/bacon-and-beef-meatloaf.html) I think if I altered that recipe, the men at the shelter might not welcome me back. So what would possess me to take out my brand new copy of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” (Clarkson Potter 2012) and, out of all its recipes, choose to make meatloaf?
Easthampton NY is one beautiful village. It’s been that way for years with a glorious pond right as you come into town where swans swim in summer and skaters take to the ice in winter. It’s home to families who were there at the town’s founding in 1648. Now it is arguably most famous as the home of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Her latest book was a gift to Andrew and me from our dear friends and frequent guests on Ina’s TV Show, Michael and Jim. Autographed by its author, it’s a treasure. And it comes with an admission: If Ina Garten could, she would eat out at one Easthampton restaurant every night of the week. Nestled right on Main Street, it is walking distance from Ina Garten’s house. The 1770 House (143 Main Street, Easthampton NY 11937 Tel: 631-324-1770) is exactly what you imagine it to be. A glorious Colonial house with two restaurants—a more formal fine dining room on the ground level and, down a flight of stairs, the Tavern with its roaring fireplace and comfort food menu. And always, on this seasonally changing menu, there is Chef Kevin Penner’s remarkable meatloaf with its even more remarkable Garlic Sauce. We’d gladly join Ina any night of the week to enjoy this menu item alone.
The key to great meatloaf is to gently combine the ingredients so that the loaf remains light and not all compacted into a solid block. This recipe calls for the classic combination of beef, pork and veal. The Panko breadcrumbs are made into a ‘flour’ when they’re put into the food processor. It’s a straightforward recipe but it’s when you get to the Garlic Sauce that it becomes completely unique in the annals of meatloaf cooking. The sauce consists of 10 cloves of garlic, boiled in olive oil and then added to chicken stock and butter on the stove, cooked for a good 35 to 40 minutes. The stock cooks down; the butter adds a silky texture. Ina advises mashing the garlic with a fork. I used my immersion blender, which smoothed the whole sauce out. Like Ina, I saved the garlic-infused oil for salads. It’s best to get the meatloaf ready for the oven and then work on the garlic sauce. Time your meatloaf going into the oven as you combine the garlic with the stock and butter to make the sauce. That way everything will get to the table simulataneously. I served the meatloaf with a celery root puree and broccolini. The whole thing was killer good even if it wasn’t my family recipe. The recipe below is for a meatloaf that serves 6 to 8 people. No matter how much I love meatloaf sandwiches, I halved the recipe and still have plenty left over for those. I could halve everything but the 3 extra large eggs. Instead, I used 2 large eggs. I also made the entire recipe for garlic sauce. You just can’t make enough sauce—especially one this good. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for 1770 House Meatloaf from Ina Garten’s
“Barefoot Contessa Foolproof”
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped Spanish onion (1 large)
1 1/2 cups small-diced celery (2 stalks)
1-pound ground beef
1-pound ground veal
1-pound ground pork
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3-cup whole milk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread flakes)
Garlic Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place the beef, veal, pork, parsley, thyme, chives, eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Put the panko in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the panko is finely ground.
Add the onion mixture and the panko to the meat mixture. With clean hands, gently toss the mixture together, making sure it’s combined but not compacted.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pat the meat into a flat rectangle and then press the sides in until it forms a cylinder down the middle of the pan (this will ensure no air pockets). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 155 degrees F to 160 degrees F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve hot with the Garlic Sauce.
3/4 cup good olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the oil and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter. Remove the garlic from the oil and set aside. (Save the oil for vinaigrettes.)
Combine the chicken stock, butter and cooked garlic in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at a full boil for 35 to 40 minutes, until slightly thickened. Mash the garlic with a fork, whisk in 1/2-teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and taste for seasonings.
Spoon the warm sauce over the meatloaf.