We were snowed in this weekend and decided to use whatever we had at hand to make a *serious* meatloaf. Much to our surprise it turned out to be one of the best we've ever had - though a little nontraditional. Pancetta, garlic, sweet hot sauce, and black pepper work together to really make this dish worlds away from the blue-plate special variety that springs to mind when most people think meatloaf. The panko breadcrumbs give it a particularly fluffy texture, and dont skimp on the eggs, half-and-half, or the 85% lean beef the fats are what gives this its rich texture.
Like any meatloaf, its even better served cold the next day, as a sandwich on toasted crusty bread spread with a thin layer of mayo and instead of the traditional tomato - topped with thin-sliced cucumber.
1/4 lb pancetta, cut into quarter-inch dice
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely minced (about 1 cup)
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 lb ground veal, ground pork, ground turkey, or 95% lean ground beef
3/4 lb 85% lean ground beef
fresh-ground black pepper
freshly shredded parmesan cheese
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pancetta dice until the fat begins to render. Pour off all but 1 tbs of drippings (if drippings are too viscous, sop up the fat with bread and discard) and add the minced onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion and garlic soften and pancetta is just starting to crisp around the edges, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
While the onion mixture is cooking, mix together in a large bowl the breadcrumbs, half-and-half, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the meats and warm onion mixture, and mix gently using your hands until everything is just combined.
Line the bottom and sides of a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. To make individual meatloaves, fill a teacup or small (1/2 to 3/4 cup capacity) bowl with meat mixture, and turn out onto the roasting pan, spacing the loaves regularly (allow for about 1/2 inch of spread per mini-loaf). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of a loaf on the side of the roasting pan registers 155F.
To make one large loaf, turn out the entire contents of the mixing bowl onto the roasting pan, and gently form into the desired shape. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 155F.
Once the loaves are cooked, remove the roasting pan from the oven and turn the oven off. Move the oven rack from the center to the top. Preheat the broiler on its low or medium setting.
Brush the top of each loaf with a thin layer of ketchup, and then coat with a thick layer of fresh-ground black pepper and shredded parmesan cheese. Put the loaves under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown and the outside of the loaf is noticeably crisped. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes for the juices to reabsorb.
Serve with crusty bread and a green salad tossed in a light vinaigrette.