The New American Classic
Raised in a multi-cultural family by immigrant parents, we didn’t eat much meatloaf in our house while I was growing up. But when my mom did make the American classic, she did so with a Spanish or Italian twist. Meatloaf at our house came with hidden surprises (and I’m not referring to breadcrumbs, mystery meat and other fillers). At our house, meatloaf was made with ground chorizo, fresh herbs, exotic mushrooms or you might even find hidden pockets of melted gorgonzola or a hard boiled egg. The possibilities and flavor combinations are as limited as your culinary imagination. But it wasn’t until I was assisting a cooking class for Chef Joey Riley, who at the time was at Buckhead Diner, that I truly fell in love with meatloaf. Although Chef Riley has since moved on and opened Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub, serving delicious global comfort food, his Freeform Veal and Mushroom Meatloaf remains on the menu at the Atlanta landmark and celebrity-sighting central that is Buckhead Diner. Here’s my easy, home version of this epic dish.
Origin of Meatloaf
There is at least one school of thought that believes meatloaf is nothing more than an over-sized meatball, brought to the United States by Italian immigrants. Similar ground meat combinations can be traced to France and other parts of Europe as well. But it wasn’t until the late 1800’s when a German inventor invented the meat grinder that this ground meat innovation became all the rage in America. And who could blame them? It was an easy, debatably tasty meat concoction that, thanks to bread or cereal fillers, canned goods and other processed ingredients, was inexpensive and economical to make.
Meatloaf has come a long way since the days of the Industrial Revolution. Today you can not only find Meatloaf on the menu of just about every dive, but you can also find gourmet, high-quality ingredient adaptations of meatloaf at some of the finest dining establishments across the country, like Buckhead Diner.
Meatloaf Goes Gourmet
Besides being moist, full of flavor and fresh ingredients, it actually turns out that cooking meatloaf freeform on a broiler pan as opposed to pressing it into a loaf pan, is a healthier way of preparing meatloaf because the fat drains down to the bottom of the pan and away from your delicious loaf. And the presentation is beautiful as well. It looks more like a slice of beef than something that you scooped out of a pan.
I firmly believe that every great meal starts with a fabulous sauce. And because I’m a busy girl who doesn’t have time to whip up supper-saving sauces every night, I keep a diverse stash ready to go in my freezer. This meatloaf is moist and delicious enough to serve on it’s own with some creamy smashed potatoes, but sometimes I just want a little something extra special. Have you ever made Boeuf Bourguignon or a similar meat dish braised in red wine and had cups of that flavorful red wine sauce left over? Well, that sauce is gravy heaven and if we’re lucky enough to have leftovers, I freeze it in single-serving ice cube trays and use it as a quick sauce for this meatloaf. All you need to do is re-heat and glaze. Now that’s what I call gourmet to go!
Suggested Wine Pairings
Pair savory, earthy mushrooms with equally earthy light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir or Dolcetto. If you like a more medium-bodied red, look for a soft Merlot. For a fuller bodied wine, look for an intense, peppery Petit Syrah to balance the earthy mushrooms and herbs.