If you've ever made a meatloaf, you know it is an inexact science. Which kind of ground meat are you using, and what is the fat content? Are you using large or jumbo eggs? Heinz or DelMonte ketchup? (If you're not using Heinz ketchup, we have nothing to say to each other.) Meatloaf is one of those dishes that can't be precisely measured, nor tasted while preparing it. You need to rely on look and touch, along with memory of what worked well for you last time. While I never make meatloaf the same way, there are some basics I can always go back to. Ground beef, no pork, veal, or poultry. Grated onion. An egg. Heinz ketchup. Matzo meal. Kosher salt, black pepper and granulated garlic. Meatloaf is never an elegant dish. It is a Mom's dish, one of the best ways to feed a family without pulling every spice out of your cabinet or having to construct a mise en place for Iron Chef Morimoto. Meatloaf is the kind of dish you eat when your jaws are tired from talking too much in court or when you are recovering from extensive dental work. Those are also the times you serve the meatloaf with mashed potatoes.
This meatloaf is a little bit fancier than that, but not by much. It was heartwarming, but not boring. It was pretty, but not precious. It had good flavor without blowing off the top of your head.
Meatloaf Ring filled with Peas and Corn
1 1/2 pounds ground market beef
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 carrot, grated
1 jumbo egg
3/4 cup Heinz ketchup
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic - to taste
1 envelope Lipton's Vegetable Soup & Dip mix (crush the unopened envelope to break up the contents a bit)
Heinz Balsamic Vinegar ketchup
3 slices bacon, cut into quarters
1 cup each frozen green peas and corn
Your favorite recipe of mashed potatoes, from 4 large potatoes (I made mine with sour cream, horseradish, and chives. Just an idea.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the first eight ingredients in a medium bowl. Using your hands, mix well, incorporating all the ingredients. Wet your hands with some cool water to work the meat mixture. Pat the meat down into the bowl, cover the bowl with an aluminum baking dish, and turn over so the meat falls into the pan. Using your hands, form the meat into an even ring with a center large enough to hold the peas and corn. Wet your hands one last time and smooth the meat, closing any cracks.
Squirt a good amount of the balsamic vinegar ketchup on top of the meatloaf, and smooth all over the meat. Drape the bacon slices at even intervals all around the meatloaf ring. Place in the preheated oven and bake for an hour, until the meat is cooked through and the bacon is starting to render and crisp.
Cook the peas and corn according to package directions, drain, and add a bit of butter and salt. With a large spoon, remove excess cooking liquid from the meatloaf baking dish, with extra care to the center of the ring. Spoon the peas and corn into the center of the ring, and pile mashed potatoes on either side. And for God's sake, take a picture!