Appreciating meat loaf

Posted on October 29, 2007 by Aun

Despite being both Singaporean, S and I had very different up-bringings. My family moved to New York City when I was two years old. When I was twelve, we moved to Washington DC. When I graduated high school, I returned to Singapore for two years after which I moved back to NYC to go to college. My childhood summers were usually spent in North America or Europe; Singapore was a tad far and my father’s employers only covered the costs of one home visit every three years. S, on the other hand, grew up almost entirely in Singapore. Her family spent a couple years in the UK when she was a toddler but the majority of her formative years were spent in the Lion City. After finishing junior college, she went to university in Australia.

Despite being raised in very different places, when we first started dating, we discovered that we shared many beliefs and cultural norms. That, we expect, is due less to where we lived as children and more to do with our respective parents. But because we did grow up in different countries, we grew up eating some very different foods. Some of the foods that I grew up loving most, S had either never tasted or had only ever eaten poor versions of. It was only natural then that when I waxed lyrically about the dishes that fell into the latter category, S could only shake her head, unable to comprehend my hunger or love for them.

One such dish is meat loaf. I love meat loaf. S, on the other hand, had only eaten a couple of versions and all of them awful. When I asked her about them, what she described sounded vile — overcooked, grey hunks of tasteless minced beef. That, any one who has ever tucked into the real thing, will tell you is crap. A properly made meat loaf should be full of flavour. While you should be able to slice it, it mustn’t be too dry. It has to retain some of the juices from the various meats that went into making it. It should have a yummy crust, dark and slightly sticky from being glazed generously.

A healthy slice from a great meat loaf, served with mashed potatoes and slathered with gravy, makes for an amazing meal. When I was in university, I used to frequently dine at a little restaurant called Camille’s, on the corner of 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Camille’s served a range of classic Italian and American dishes. Their turkey meat loaf was outstanding. Whenever it was available — it was always a lunch special — I would have it. I simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Because I really wanted S to appreciate my love of this simple American classic (and since we’d yet to find a good one in town), I decided that my only recourse was to make one for her. I had recently been given the The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by a friend as a birthday present. The book is a treasure-trove of American, and specifically Southern, classics. The Lee brothers’ meat loaf recipe, which they admit was given to them by their sister (when they were all living together in Harlem, hence the name of the recipe), sounded delicious. I liked that they used Italian sausage stuffing and chopped pickles. The latter especially would give the meat loaf an interesting and exciting flavour accent. I also liked the glaze — a simple mixture of ketchup, Tabasco and Worcestershire that I knew would work well together. The recipe also sounded easy enough to make in a relatively short amount of time. Perfect for throwing together late one night in order to eat the next day — the Lees suggest storing the meat loaf in the fridge overnight in order to bind and accentuate its flavours.

As promised, the meat loaf was a breeze to make. I fed it to S and one of her cousins. Thankfully, they both loved it. I have to admit I was rather worried that S would take one bite, spit it out and go, “blech!” But she not only polished off the slice I served her, but also went back into the kitchen for seconds.

Harlem Meat Loaf
Feeds 4 hungry people
Adapted from a recipe in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

450g ground beef, chuck or sirloin
225g meat from Italian sausages
3/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup chopped sour dill pickles
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Place the minced beef and the sausage meat into a large, wide bowl. The Lee brothers recommended using sweet Italian sausages. I couldn’t find any at my local butcher and instead used spicy Italian sausages, which worked splendidly for me. Break the meat up into golf-ball sized hunks in the bowl. In a second bowl, whisk 1/2 cup ketchup with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire and 2 teaspoons Tabasco. Pour this over your meat.

Using the same bowl, mix your pickles, onion, garlic and parsley. Then scatter this over the meat mixture. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over it. Then add the egg and salt. Using your hands, mix the ingredients well, until evenly blended.

Transfer the mixture to a 9inch x 13inch roasting pan and pat it into a compact loaf. Bake this for 35 minutes on the middle rack of your oven.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire and 1 teaspoon Tabasco together in a small bowl. Brush the glaze generously over the top of the meat loaf. Try and use up all of the glaze. Pop the meat loaf back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The glaze should darken and stiffen. Let the meat loaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing or, more preferably, place it in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. If you do the latter, tent the pan with aluminum foil. To reheat, pop it in an oven heated to 140 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes or so.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Fred Lin October 29, 2007 at 12:21 am

    haha! Finally you post about meatloaf. The dish that got me my ice-cream. :P

    Like S, I was brought up in Singapore, and while I’ve heard of meatloaf, I didn’t know it was so simple to make! The glaze has got to be one of the simplest in the book!

    Hope to make it in Shanghai (where I’m living now) soon.

  2. cath October 29, 2007 at 8:51 am

    You know CH, meatloaf is just one of those hit or miss dishes. I’ve had terrific meatloaf, and then I’ve had bricks posing as meatloaf. Sounds like this one was a hit. :-)

  3. David October 29, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    No gravy with the meatloaf? Would love a good gravy recipe …

  4. Venny October 30, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Thank you! I’ve been wanting to make my own meatloaf.

  5. alexandra October 30, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I lived in the states for 6yrs and never dared to touch meatloaf cuz it always seemed gross…grey and just something ppl had as leftovers…but now that I’ve read this I think I’m going to try making my own meatloaf!! yumm…I just stumbled upon your blog a couple of days ago and it inspired me to get back into food blogging…if you ever get the chance to check out my blog…any comments or criticism would be great!

  6. Lydia Hamre October 30, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    wow, my husband will like this one!

  7. Chubbypanda October 31, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Is it sacrilegious if I want to put a little dollop of ketchup next to the meatloaf? =) You have to have ketchup with meatloaf.

  8. vanessa October 31, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I have always been curious about meatloaf, some have raved abt it, others have turned their noses at it.

    Ok going to bite the bullet, and try it out. I will sub the beef with mince chicken. Just cos dad isnt a big fan of beef unfortunately.

    Will it make a huge difference?

  9. Chubby Hubby October 31, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Vanessa: I really don’t think you can use chicken instead of beef. That’s like saying you want to make a cheeseburger but with no beef or you want to make a fish pie without fish. Just doesn’t really work.

  10. Danielle Goh November 1, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    I replaced the beef and italian sausage to minced pork, chili ham and taiwan sausage as my family does not take beef. The rest of ingredient remains the same as your recipe, it turns out nice too! It’s sweet and spicy. This will definitely be one of my xmas dish! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  11. Chubby Hubby November 1, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Danielle: That actually sounds good. A tad fusion too, which is not always a bad thing.

    Vanessa: Why don’t you try Danielle’s recipe?

  12. Antonia November 2, 2007 at 3:33 am

    I have always been highly suspicious of meatloaf (for no good reason) but this looks absolutely divine. I must give it a try – thanks for the inspiration! What a great blog – glad to have discovered it.

  13. Danielle Goh November 3, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    I tried using chicken today, the final product turns out to be soaking in a 10mm layer of soup and the loaf is rather dry. Seems like chicken does not retain its moist as good as beef/pork/mutton and the loaf have to go with some sauces to make it chewable. I dip it with plain yogurt (mixed with prickles) and it’s like ‘just ok to eat lah’.

  14. ryozan November 5, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    sorry for sounding stupid, but how do I get sausage meat? Do I chop up sausages, or is it possible to by the actual meat stuffing of sausages as is, because I’ve never seen it before in Singapore… sorry and thanks for your help, really inspired by your photos to make this dish but stumped by the sausage…

  15. Chubby Hubby November 5, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    <p>Ryozan: Not a dumb question at all! Swiss Butchery sells frozen packets of the stuffing it uses for its spicy Italian sausages. That’s what I use. Alternatively, you can buy Italian sausages (from a good butcher, so it’s filled with yummy things), then cut the sausage casing down the middle and extract all the stuffing.</p>

  16. Venny December 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Hi CH, I’d like to seek your permission again to put this recipe (will make today) and the Hainanese Chicken rice (tried it, great recipe!!) in my blog. With full admiration and credit to this site, of course. Thanks!

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