October 9, 2013

Grassfed Meatloaf with Roasted Tomato Topping

"Meatloaf?" Scott peered into the mixing bowl as I squashed and kneaded its contents.

It was clear that he thought I had taken a culinary wrong turn. How could that brown, ketchup-slathered, stale-crumb mountain of 1950s dinnertime infamy be, you know, good food? Food especially that I would make, with my reverence of real, whole, unprocessed foods?

I'm not sure where the spark of inspiration came from. Maybe I was seduced by the childhood memory of piling up the red, eggy loaf on a pan in my mom's kitchen. Maybe serving hundreds of plates of meatloaf to old men at the diner when I was sixteen inoculated me against the disdain people seem to have for this all-American dish.

Either way, I really wanted to make it. Of course, I wanted to make it a new way. An upgrade.

So here are my substitutions: grass-fed beef; 100% whole grain, home-toasted breadcrumbs; organic tomato sauce; and freshly roasted tomato topping. Earthy sage and oregano add depth, and a splash of balsamic vinegar barely hints at the tang you remember from this meatloaf's ketchupy cousins. And oh is it delicious.

This is meatloaf made whole and nourishing. This is meatloaf good enough for a dinner party.

"This is the best meatloaf I have every had," Scott said as we ate. "I feel like I could eat that whole loaf."

Great! (But don't do that! Then you won't have leftovers.) Enjoy it with your family!

Grassfed Meatloaf with Roasted Tomato Topping
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
Serves 6

1 lb grassfed beef
1 fresh egg
2 slices 100% whole grain bread, like Ezekial brand
1/2 sweet onion, chopped small
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used Muir Glen organic, which is BPA-free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 medium tomato, chopped

Preheat oven to 350, and rub a little olive oil into the sides and bottom of a standard-sized loaf pan.

Toast bread until it's nice and dry, and add the slices to a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to grind and break it into crumbs, as finely as you can, within reason.

Add all other ingredients except fresh tomato to the mixing bowl (I give the egg a quick whisk right in the bowl). Season with salt and pepper, then use your hands to mix everything well.

Pack the mixture into the loaf pan. Flatten that puppy out (mountainous loaves just dry out at the edges).

Sprinkle the chopped tomato evenly across the top of the loaf.

Bake for just over an hour, using a kitchen thermometer to make sure the loaf is over 160 degrees in the middle. (One hour and ten minutes has been the sweet spot for me.)

Slice and enjoy! We love ours topped with sauteed garlicky mushrooms.

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