I love a good meatloaf. On cold days, my thoughts uncontrollably zero in on a hot slice of that home-cooked, belly-warming classic, brimming with juicy flavor, and served up next to some fluffy mashed potatoes.
What I dig about meatloaf is how easily it lends itself to such varied ingredients. Sometimes, I throw in some frozen peas or an onion soup mix packet if I have one handy. Pre-made sauces really work well, too. Do you like Teriyaki sauce? I do, and sometimes I’ll add a half cup, which gives my meatloaf a nice sweet tang. I think meatloaf is a truly adaptable meal. It’s almost elastic, wouldn’t you say?
That elasticity got me thinking. Since meatloaf allows so many substitutions, couldn’t I break down the recipe into components and create new versions on the fly, like a template?
To me, the basic formula for putting together a meatloaf looks like this:
Elastic recipe: Meatloaf
- 3 parts meat (ground beef, poultry, pork, lamb, and Italian/breakfast sausage are all contenders)
- 1 part absorbent starch (packaged breadcrumbs or cubed white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, cornbread, or oatmeal)
- binder and liquids (eggs, sauces, oils, milk, and/or canned soup)
- flavorful optional component (veggies, cheeses, spices, soup mix)
Your oven should be preheated to 325º F. Mix the ingredients well (feel welcome to use your clean hands and squish everything together) and bake it in a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined 10″ loaf pan. You’ll want to cook the meatloaf until the internal temperature is at least 160º F for red meats or 165º F for poultry.
By Simplifying a recipe down to its basic components, you can change it into something super adaptable. Making a formula instead of a precise recipe helps you utilize whatever leftovers or ingredients you have available.
Of course, part of using an elastic recipe is knowing how the ingredients interact. To help you make sure the results are delicious, I will add a paragraph or two in future elastic recipes explaining some food theory pointers to show why things work the way they do.
I find that some meals lend themselves well to become an elastic recipe better than others. Stew, hash, and stir fried rice are some of the best dishes that use up leftovers because they are so adaptable. This kind of problem solving helps me clean out a fridge full of misfit ingredients and create something delicious by mealtime.
In the end, it may not taste exactly like your mother’s Sunday night meatloaf, but you could very well turn out something your stomach loves. Look for more elastic recipes from me in the future.