As a kid, I hated meatloaf. I think it was the ketchup. I had a bad experience with it and avoided it well into my 20s. Unfortunately, it meant I never developed a taste for dishes that included it.
This week, I decided to test my taste buds and pulled out an old copy of Fine Cooking that included a formula for making meatloaf. Fortunately, in their formula, ketchup took a back seat.
The Essence of a Good Meatloaf
According to the FC article, there are basically 6 keys to a good meatloaf:
- Aromatics – the onions, garlic, and vegetables that will give flavor to your meatloaf.
- Liquid – wine, beer, apple cider, tomato sauce, etc. to add moisture and even complexity to the flavors.
- Body and binders – eggs and a starch typically (bread and crackers are most often used); you can also use almond meal or cooked white rice.
- The core – your meat and add-in ingredients like dried fruit, cheese (if you eat it), olives, and other high-flavor ingredients.
- Flavor – spices and fresh herbs that complement your other ingredients.
- Coating – ketchup, tomato paste, bacon, or other toppings that helps keep the moisture in while the meat cooks, and adds flavor overall.
The magazine had a lot of suggestions for ingredients and amounts. Fortunately, you don’t need the magazine to test the formula. The Fine Cooking website has an interactive Create Your Own Meatloaf feature that lets you drag and drop ingredients into a virtual bowl and then gives you the measurements you’ll need.
Kinda Fancy Turkey Meatloaf
I used the formula, but chose ingredients that didn’t make the magazine’s list.
Taking inspiration from appetizers of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and dates, I decided to create a meatloaf that was nothing like what I ate as a kid. With those ingredients, as well as smoked paprika, fresh thyme, almond meal, and red wine, it was rich, moist, had a nice crunch, and was even lovely to look at.
What resulted was something better than I imagined. Between eight of us, we inhaled it. I think it would have made great leftovers.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- ¾ cup chopped water chestnuts, chopped (the contents of a small can, rinsed)
- ¼ cup chopped carrots or red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅔ cup red wine
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup almond meal
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 2 Eggs
- ¼ cup pitted and minced dates
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- ¾ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 1 pound bacon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Saute onions, garlic, water chestnuts, and carrots (or peppers) in olive oil on medium high heat for 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat, add red wine, and simmer for another 4 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, place turkey, eggs, dates, green onions, and herbs and spices in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir balsamic vinegar into the onion and wine mixture. Add in almond meal and stir well. Add all of this mixture to the bowl of turkey.
- Using hands, combine all ingredients well.
- Place parchment paper or a Silpat on a large baking sheet. Shape meatloaf mixture into a loaf that is about 13 inches long and 5 inches wide.
- Place strips of bacon on the loaf diagonally, slightly overlapping each piece, until the loaf is completely wrapped. Cut or wrap ends if you need to.
- Place baking sheet in oven and cook for about 50 minutes, or until bacon is crisp and inside temperature has reached 180 degrees F. (Note, if you use beef or pork, cook to safe internal temperature for those meats instead.)
- Let rest for a few minutes, slice, then serve.