Meatloaf is one of those wonderful dishes that manages to be delicious and comforting, yet incredibly easy to make. Once a cook gets a handle on the basics – ground meat, chopped vegetables, some filler such as bread crumbs, maybe an egg or two and seasonings – he or she can adapt the recipe in whatever way they choose and pretty regularly find success.
I’ve rarely followed an exact recipe for meatloaf in my time. I have discovered over the years that you ought to saute your onions and celery and peppers a little bit before adding them to the mix. I have also discovered that a mixture of meats results in a more flavorful meatloaf than using straight beef. We like half pork and half beef, but some folks like to throw in some ground veal or lamb, too, and you can use ground turkey or chicken for a lighter version.
Here’s a twist on the usual meatloaf, though: The other night, while mixing my meatloaf, I remembered that half-bunch of fresh asparagus in the refrigerator that was about to be not-so-fresh. On a whim, I cleaned and trimmed the spears, then packed half of my meatloaf mixture into the loaf pan before laying the asparagus across the top of it. I then sprinkled some cheddar cheese on top of the asparagus before packing the rest of my meat mixture over the top. When we sliced the finished meatloaf, the asparagus and cheese inside looked pretty. It tasted good, too.
I am by no means the first person to think of stuffing a surprise inside a meatloaf. My friend, Stacy, makes her signature loaf with broccoli and cheese in the center. She also swears by a can of Campbell’s vegetable soup in the mix. Also, I can recall my father occasionally remembering with fondness a meatloaf my mom “used to make” that had ham and Swiss cheese rolled up in the center. Mom said, “I made it ONCE! And I’ll never stop hearing about it.”
I searched around for some stuffed meatloaf recipes and found quite a few. One took the name quite literally, adding a layer of bread stuffing in the center. I thought this recipe for Greek Stuffed Meatloaf, which is made with lamb and has spinach and feta in the center, sounded to-die-for. I also found a recipe on Allrecipes.com for something called “Da Beef Lover’s Half-Time Stuffed Meatloaf” that is packed with salami, ham, spinach and cheese. And here, finally, is a recipe for a simple ham-and-cheese stuffed meatloaf. If you can call such a thing “simple.”
Have any of you made a stuffed meatloaf before? And what is your vote on ketchup vs. brown gravy for a meatloaf topper? I grew up in a ketchup household.