My grandparents were amazing chefs, hailing from Transylvania. Unfortunately made infamous by the legendary Count Dracula, Transylvania is a real place – a region in central Romania that has had strong Hungarian influence since the tenth century. So my grandparents’ cooking was strongly Romanian and Hungarian and meatloaf was not on the menu.
Not that meatloaf doesn’t have European roots. It does – but not my family’s old country. It’s reputedly of German origin, and it made its way here with German immigrants during Colonial times. It became really popular during the Great Depression because it’s a great way to use inexpensive meat, leftovers and spices (sometimes stretched by cereal grains) in an appetizing dish. How apropos for us now that we are all looking for ways to stretch a buck in the most creative culinary fashion possible.
The first time I was introduced to meatloaf was at camp, with a song, by a singer who went by the name Meatloaf. I’ve often wondered why on earth anyone would want to go by that name, if you could pick any stage name in the world.
If I had to choose a new name for my rock star career -- and if, for some reason, this awful game came with the rule that the name had to be a food – I would call myself Avocado! Or Cupcake. What would your rock star food name be?
Anyway -- I never really met a meatloaf I could eat until Hubby asked me for it. He was raised on all this American stuff. So I learned to do meatloaf. It’s not hard to prepare, and the results are pretty terrific. You bake it in a loaf pan, sometimes with an egg in the middle (no shell!), smeared with ketchup on top and then serve it sliced with mashed potatoes on the side.
Now I love meatloaf, and I learned a thing or two. Did you know that meatloaf is excellent (even the next day) in sandwiches, especially on crusty bread? Try it.
While I really do like the traditional recipe, sometimes I want my dinner to look a little more elegant than just a plain old slice of meatloaf. You know how I love to take an easy-as-pie, everyday recipe and turn it into something special. And I love to individualize servings too. So I did both with meatloaf in my new cookbook Quick and Kosher Meals in Minutes. My recipe for Individual Meat Loaves uses individual ramekins (a small glazed serving dish). Ramekins add a little touch of sophistication to a very deserving dish. Food doesn’t have to be complicated to look stylish.
These little individual meatloaves may ring bells from your childhood and offer you the comfort of being back home in Mom’s kitchen. But they are beautiful and interesting enough for entertaining too.