To try Regina's recipe for meatloaf wrapped in bacon and topped with a savory glaze, click here.
There is a theory I have about what people consider "normal." There is no normal—it is just our own pattern of experiences that we project onto others. This week my theory was proven true. (Quite unscientifically, I might add.)
With school starting for my son, something was triggered and I felt the need to make a meatloaf. I thought everyone inside and outside my household shared the idea that the main objective of making meatloaf is to have a meatloaf sandwich. I thought I would make it and document the recipe for this week's post. I also had the idea that I would interview several people about what they considered the perfect meatloaf sandwich.
I quickly discovered how alone I was with my idea that everyone loves meatloaf sandwiches. I began asking friends about their idea of a perfect meatloaf sandwich, and I was amazed at how many of my friends said they never had one. A few said they were even repulsed by the idea ... but then admitted they had never had one. One friend said his mother's meatloaf was horrible and his wife's even worse. How do you respond to that? Once, with four people at the table, I was the only person who had ever had a meatloaf sandwich. All I could think was they were not normal or maybe just underexposed. I am determined to turn them on to what I consider a very good sandwich.
The more I spoke to people about this, the more I realized that although this sandwich was a staple in my life it is not as mainstream as I thought. I quickly concluded that most people think of meatloaf served "open-face" with mashed potatoes and gravy. Maybe for the first meal when you take it out of the over, but you have to make enough for a regular sandwich. Making a meatloaf just for a sandwich seems like a lot of work, so I recommend making it for dinner and then using the leftovers for sandwiches.
I do think you have to start with a good meatloaf, and I have my own ideas of what makes a good meatloaf. I think it cannot be all beef; it needs pork for moistness, eggs, oatmeal, and breadcrumbs to get the proper consistency, and enough seasoning to flavor but not overpower. I also like it to be wrapped in bacon to add more flavor, then topped with a glaze that is savory and sweet. Why I have this idea, I don't even know. But I am standing by it.
I managed to get two friends to make positive comments about the perfect meatloaf sandwich. Jim Dodge—author of several books on baking and someone I consider quite knowledgeable about food—responded to an email with this report: "I like New York rye bread, stone ground mustard, mayo, roasted red peppers, romaine lettuce, and the meatloaf should be slightly warm." And my friend Jenna Aldridge, who owns a Pilates studio and is very much into healthy eating, surprised me when she said she likes crusty French bread, thinly sliced meatloaf, the bread should be wet with sauce, and some melted cheese—pretty much the way she likes a meatball sandwich. Her husband, Courtney, heard us talking about it, and he said rye would be his choice. I finally felt some comfort that I was not totally alone. In my own household I need three different types of bread—wheat, rye, and French—and condiments range from none to mayonnaise and mustard.
I have to say I probably make meatloaf once a year, but I had visions of America eating it every Monday night. Meatloaf may not be the American staple that I thought, but I know I share something with many mothers out there: that never-ending question "What can I cook for dinner tonight?" All I can say is thank goodness I have more of an audience for my cooking than just my family. If I had to be inspired to cook just for my family based on their unenthusiastic answers to my requests about what they would like to eat, it would be a miracle for me to ever cook at all. I am not whining as an underappreciated mother and wife—they do make me feel appreciated in many ways, every day. Obviously it is as much of a chore for them to answer the never-ending question as it is for me to figure out what to cook for dinner.
As much as I cook, I tend to draw a blank on some new and different things to try. I remember several years ago asking my boys if they wanted something special for Valentine's Day dinner. Martin was about six years old and asked me "What is the most difficult dish you know how to make?" I answered, "Timpano," and he immediately said, "That's what I want." I did make it and it remains one of his favorites. If only every night could be that successful, but without that much work. Sometime this fall I will give you a step-by-step recipe on how to make this fabulous dish. It is so involved that I will probably make it three posts. In the meantime, if you never saw the movie The Big Night rent it and watch it and you too will be intrigued by this dish and charming movie. This week you get something much easier, and maybe not as normal as I thought: meatloaf.
As I was about to send this I received one more response from my friend Robert Harling: "Sorry I didn't answer sooner, just returned from a month in France. But I couldn't really contribute much. While I adore meatloaf, I can't stand meatloaf sandwiches. But then again, I've never had one of yours ..."