I never understood why people hated meatloaf.
So often the butt of jokes, meatloaf has gotten a bad reputation over the years as a dry lump of meat cooked by some unloving, kitchen novice. This disdain likely comes from the dish's origin as a way to stretch scrapple by mixing it with oatmeal or cornmeal. The meatloaf I grew up on, however, was moist and flavorful and on a rotating list of dishes I requested on trips home from school.
Years ago, an ex-boyfriend made me the version of meatloaf that he grew up on - beef, onion soup mix, saltines and peppers all baked in a loaf pan ("because it's called meat'loaf' not meat'football-shaped'" he told me) - I finally understood the jokes.
Both of grandmothers made their meatloaf in a similar way, beginning with the same basic recipe of meat, fresh bread, eggs and seasoning. My own mother played around with the recipe, trying out different toppings and sauces. In the end, a son's love for "the way Mom used to make it" won over and my Mom began making it exactly the way my paternal grandmother Margaret Hank Schmitt made it - over a bed of golden onions and covered in a tomato gravy.
1-1 1/2 lbs ground beef (I have also made it with ground turkey)
3 slices of white bread
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped dry onion
1 medium yellow onion
1 can tomato soup
1-2 large potatoes (optional)
Moisten the white bread with water, ring out the excess and add it to the beef along with the egg, cheese and dry onion. Mix well (hands work best!).
Slice the yellow onion and layer on the bottom-center of a baking dish.
Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and lay on top of the onions.
Loaf or football ?
Cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
Scatter the potatoes around the meatloaf.
Bake in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, for an hour.
Mix the tomato soup with equal part water until combined. Pour the mixture gently over the meatloaf.
Return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes. To serve, cut the meatloaf into 1 inch slices and spoon the tomato gravy over the top. Serve the remaining gravy on the side.
If you're so lucky as to have leftovers, this meatloaf makes a great sandwich the next day - sliced and served on a kaiser roll or white toast with a little bit of ketchup. Yum!
Incidentally, I always use Italian white bread for this and when making meatballs because that is what my mother always buys. I particularly like this brand.....it just seems to call my name.