As a guy who’s had a life long love affair with food, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I first tasted a genuine meatloaf sandwich.
My lovely wife grew up in a household for which the traditional meatloaf recipe was considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment; that said, meatloaf simply never showed up on our early family menu schedule. Never ever.
One late June weekend years back a good friend and I took our kids to Strawberry Reservoir to do a bit of stillwater fishing for the big cutties for which Strawberry used to be known. We rented an ancient wooden skiff that easily contained he and I, his young teenage daughter and my then six year old, Jake.
The outboard was a certifiable antique and the boat leaked at a prodigious rate – incoming water would cover our feet every 15 minutes or so. An ample bailing bucket was provided.
My friend brought a cooler with lunch and when the kids couldn’t stand it, he proceeded to make us outrageously good meatloaf sandwiches right there in the boat.
He had two fresh-baked loaves of Great Harvest sourdough bread wrapped in brown paper; he sliced ‘em into thick slabs, covered one half in mayonnaise and one half with A-1, then laid thick slices of a very nice meatloaf on.
It was heaven. Even Jake, who at age 6 had probably never even seen a meatloaf given his momma’s bias noted above, devoured one himself and half of another.
Granted any food taste better when 2 pound or better native cutthroat are whacking scuds and wooly buggers at a twenty count with a fast sinking line, but these sandwiches were really, really good.
That was seventeen years ago, and we’ve been on the hunt for the ‘best-on-the-planet’ meatloaf recipe ever since.
Lizbeth, wife of a fishing friend, knew of our quest and sent something very close to this recipe over a few months ago. Well spiced, combining beef and pork as all great meatloaf recipes seem to do and with a nice load of chopped vegetables, we figured this one would be good.
We were wrong, it’s really not good. It’s great. And it’s the bacon and pan sauce / glaze that kicks it over the top. (Always remember the simple rule – bacon makes everything better.)
Your meatloaf sandwiches on the river (or lake) will never be the same again.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 cup panko
Glaze / pan sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
4 or 5 slices applewood smoked bacon
Meatloaf. Preheat your trusty oven to 350. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic and bell pepper until soft. Add the ketchup and Worcestershire, simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork, the two eggs, cayenne, thyme and onion mixture; stir well. Add the panko and mix thoroughly.
Glaze. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the ketchup, cumin, Worcestershire, hot sauce and brown sugar. Melt in one Tbsp. of the butter. Remove from heat.
Form and bake. Lightly great a rimmed baking sheet with the remaining butter. Form a loaf /log with the meat mixture on the sheet; spoon glaze over the top. Lay the bacon out lengthwise along the loaf, the sides of the slices touching one another. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until firm; remove and cool slightly before slicing.
Serve. Serve it up with the rest of the glaze.