Most meat loaves call for a combination of beef, pork and veal. In this recipe, the geniuses at Cook's Illustrated went for an all beef version.
The first time making it seems a little too complicated for meat loaf... but the hard work pays off. It's delicious. And after making it a couple of times, it's actually pretty easy.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground chuck
(I usually make extra glaze to serve on the side.)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (i.e. Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
Oven: 375 F
Spread grated cheese on plate (or baking sheet) and place in freezer until ready to use
Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add tomato juice. Cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan, until thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside to cool.
While onion mixture is cooking, whisk together broth and eggs in large bowl until combined. Sprinkle gelatin over liquid and let stand at least 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, mustard, crushed saltines, parsley, salt, pepper and onion mixture. Crumble frozen cheese into coarse powder and sprinkle over mixture. Add ground beef; mix gently with hands until thoroughly combined (but not paste-like).
This is the point where I stray (enough to write about) from the published recipe.
You can bake it as one large meatloaf, or you can do like me and split it in 2 loaves. I find this works so much better for the size of my family. I can then freeze one of them if need be.
I bake mine on my broiler pan. If you do not have a broiler pan, you do as Cook's Illustrated suggests and cook it on aluminum foil that is placed on a cooling rack with holes poked in it and place that on a baking sheet. That all seems a little complicated to me when I have a broiler pan so handy. The point is to let some of the grease drain away from the loaf (loaves).
Okay - back to our regularly scheduled recipe...
Bake 55-65 minutes (until center of loaf reads 135-140 degrees). Remove meat loaf from oven and turn on broiler.
While meat loaf cooks, combine ketchup, hot pepper sauce, coriander, vinegar and brown sugar in small sauce pan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Spread half of glaze evenly over cooked meat loaf with rubber spatula; place under broiler and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and spread even with remaining glaze; place back under broiler and cook until glaze is again bubbling and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes more.
Let meat loaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.