Last spring, I wrote that everyone and his dog had their own ideas of what made a good meat loaf. My own family has several different ideas, and today I’m going to share one of them.
Early fall can be a tricky time to plan meals. You never know whether it’s going to be a burgers-in-the-backyard kind of day or a meat-roasting-in-the-oven kind of day. Plan on this dish and you’ll be ready for either. If it turns out warm and sunny, you can just buy some hamburger buns, make a salad, and grill the sausage patties on the barbecue.
Starting with sausage patties also means you don’t have to worry about seasoning your meat loaf. If you’re new to cooking from scratch, this can save you a lot of trouble. Just be sure to get a kind of sausage you like.
- 4 (¼ lb each) mild Italian pork sausage patties
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup quick oatmeal (plain,not flavored!)
- Tomato sauce or ketchup for topping
- Beat the egg well and stir in the oatmeal till it soaks up the egg. Break up the sausage patties with a fork and stir the meat into the egg mixture.
- Form the meat and egg mixture into a rectangle and put in a shallow, lightly greased pan, preferably one with a rack so the melting fat doesn’t pool up around the meat loaf. I use a broiler pan that was once part of a toaster oven. There are also pans especially made for meat loaf. Anything that keeps the grease off will work.
- Sometimes, instead of greasing the pan, I just put a couple of strips of raw bacon under the meat loaf. This gives you plenty of greasing, and a little treat when the meat loaf is done.
- Brush a little ketchup or tomato sauce on the top of the meatloaf. (A teaspoon or two will be enough.) This will cook down into a concentrated tomato glaze. If you don’t remember to do this right away, any time up till the last half hour of cooking is plenty of time, but the glaze won’t be so thick.
- Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. The safe temperature for cooked ground meat is officially 160; some people find it’s too dry at that point, but if you do, well, eat at your own risk.
- Pork sometimes looks unappetizingly pale even when it’s fully cooked — that’s one reason for the tomato glaze. Another way to deal with this is to broil the meat loaf for just a couple of minutes until the top browns slightly. Again, this has the potential to dry out the meat, to say nothing of burning it, so proceed with caution.
- If you end up barbecuing instead . . . there’ll be plenty of times in the winter when a meat loaf recipe will come in handy.