Because sometimes you need comfort food

September 9, 2010

The tilapia remains unbroiled, the pesto remains unused.

Does it get any more all-American than this?

What we have tonight is pure, unadulterated comfort food.

Meat loaf, mac and cheese, carrots. It doesn’t get much more comfortable than that.

Plus a cookie sheet of 36 meatballs in the oven for meatball sandwiches, pasta, or whatever, later on. I’ll make marinara sauce tomorrow, because, well, tomorrow is another day.

The doubling up is because, with the exception of one ingredient, the ingredients for the meatballs and the meat loaf are the same. And being that I found ground veal at the grocery for the first time in God-knows-when, and I didn’t feel like splitting that one-pound package into two portions, and I didn’t feel like splitting that pound of PJF ground pork into two portions, I decided what the hell, it’s no big deal to make both, and then you’ve got most of dinner done for another couple or three nights.

OK. Basic meat loaf/meatball mix, and this is enough for a meatloaf that will fill a deep-dish pie plate (more on why, later), and make about three dozen meatballs that are between the size of a ping-pong ball and a golf ball. I vary what size I make them, depending on what I’m going to do with them; for meatball subs, which is what we do with a lot of them, that size works well. If I’m going to serve them with pasta, I may go up to tennis ball size. Or not. Actually, when I go up to tennis ball size is when I want to serve them with pasta or something, AND when I’m in a hurry. But in any event, here’s how I start out:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I am sold on using organic, grass-fed beef here. Thank you, PJF!)
  • 1 pound ground pork (also PJF, because that’s what I had, but as noted, I can’t make a bunch of difference between PJF pork and the grocery store stuff
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • a sprinkle of dried thyme
  • one sleeve Saltine style crackers, crushed
  • one onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic

Yum. Nicely broiled ketchup topping. Moist, meaty insides.

Note that I have fresh basil, oregano and thyme growing on my back deck. And when it comes sauce-making time, I’ll use it. I just like dried herbs  better in my meat loaf and meatballs, for whatever reason.

Additional ingredients to differentiate the two:

  • For the meat loaf, 1/2 cup or so of ketchup
  • For the meatballs, 3/4 cup grated parmegiano reggiano

Directions are, at best, minimal. Dice/mince and saute the onions and garlic until they’re soft. Dump everything in a bowl. Squish it together with your hands. It helps if you beat the eggs first, but it’s not critical. Confession time: I crush my Saltines by sticking them in a gallon plastic zip top bag, squeezing out most of the air, and then tossing them on the floor and stepping on them.

It fascinates Lucy.

OK, back to the recipe. Take about half that, and spread out in your deep-dish pie plate. Why? Because, if you’re me, you like more of the crusty, ketchupy outside, and less of the inside. If you like more outside, bake that baby in a loaf pan, I don’t care. Or free-form it and bake it on a baking sheet, which always seemed to me to be more trouble than it was worth.

Stick it in a preheated, 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes; pull it out, turn the oven down to 325, and spread your ketchup on top. I’m guesstimating at 1/2 cup; use however much ketchup makes you happy. Bake it for another 45-50 minutes, until you start seeing brown spots on the ketchup. Snatch it out, and let it rest for maybe 10 minutes (or as long as you want) before you cut it.

At this point, you can either put the remaining meat mixture into the fridge to make into meatballs, or another meatloaf, later, or you can go on and make them now, while the meatloaf is baking and the mac is cooking for the mac and cheese. Actually, I find that if I stick the meat loaf in the oven, sit down and help NS with homework, then get up, cook the mac and then add the fixins (a 3-inch chunk of Velveeta, diced; a cup and a half, thereabouts, of grated cheddar; about half a stick of butter, and a guesstimated 1/3 cup half-and-half, on warm until the cheese all melts, stirring occasionally) and peel and boil the carrots (with brown sugar, nothing else; when they’re done, drain ’em, add a couple tablespoons of butter, and salt them lightly, stir to glaze), then you’ve about got time to make up the meatballs and get them ready to stick in the oven when the meat loaf comes out. That way you can eat and finish cleaning up the kitchen while they bake.

Three dozen meatballs. Six meatball sandwiches. NS is happy.

So add your grated Parm to the meat mixture, and mix it in nicely. Then form your meatballs — again, this two pounds worth of meat (approximately) will make 36 (approximately) meatballs, if you’re making them between the size of a ping-pong ball and a golf ball. Approximately. Put them on a baking sheet (for clean-up convenience, I line said baking sheet with foil) sprayed with cooking spray, and bake them at about 375 for about 20 minutes, until they have a nice brown crust to them. Let ’em cool, then bag ’em up and stick them in the fridge. You can freeze them, too; I tend to do that in sandwich-sized portions, with sauce, in a baggie.

And that’s the name of dinner tonight. You and y’mama ‘n ’em come on by for some leftovers.

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