Putting a Chef Through Misery for One Great Meatloaf

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Photo by Flickr user mooshee85


My sister had a business partner in her restaurant for a number of years, who, to protect his identity, I'll call him Tattoo. He was a vegetarian -- I know, I know, but you can't argue with crazy. Tattoo didn't just avoid eating meat, he was grossed out by it. Not good for a chef, and even worse for one who cooked at a restaurant that had a wildly popular dish called Misery Meatloaf.

I had heard that Tattoo didn't much like making the meatloaf, but that didn't begin to describe his discomfort. Here's how it went down when I stopped by one afternoon to learn how it was made.

Tattoo began by pouring some milk into a large bowl, into which dove some homemade bread for a leisurely swim and soak. He then moved onto the meat portion of the agenda, turning his head away as he dropped a huge amount of fresh ground beef into a stainless steel bowl. Like Indiana Jones averting his gaze from the Ark of the Covenant, Tattoo couldn't risk looking.

"Sometimes a fleck of meat flies out at my face" he explained.
In went copious amounts of Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, eggs, chopped onions, salt, and pepper. He went back to the now soggy-with-milk bread, broke it up, and added it to the meat bowl, before sitting down for a moment.

"What's up?" I ask, "did you forget something?"

"Just taking a moment to psyche myself up is all."

He walked over and grabbed a wooden box, placing it in front of the counter with the meat bowl. It seemed that to really bear down and mix the meatloaf, he needed a bit more height than his DNA had provided. Stepping up and taking a deep breath, he plunged his arms into the bowl and began to mix. Almost immediately, he also began to gag.

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Photo by Flickr user azured00
Poor Tattoo didn't make it this far.
"Are you OK, dude?" I asked him.

"Not really, no" he told me.

By now his arms were covered in blood past his elbows. He had a look on his face like he was a waterboard victim at Gitmo. His rhythmic gag reflex reminded me of a cat trying to eject a fur ball.

"Not only [gag] is this completely disgusting [rak], but it's cold as hell [gerk] and my arms are going numb [cak] below my biceps. Jesus, I can't [guk] do this anymore [mmph] or I'll puke."

He stepped down from his little booster step and ran for the sink.

"Brad," he asked "would you do me a favor and dump that meat onto the sheet pan and make a couple of loaves?"

He didn't have to ask twice. I picked up the huge bowl, plopped the beef onto the pan, and started making a couple of enormous loaves of delicious meatloaf.

"What kind of beef is this?" I asked.

"Just beef, man. Local butcher, local farm, free-range."

"So this was walking around a few weeks ago?" I ask.

"I'm begging you Brad, please stop talking about it. Just make the loaves and let me sit for a second."

While I continued to shape the loaves, Tattoo sat against the wall with his head between his legs, a bottle of water in his hand. It wasn't a good look for a chef.

"When you're done, just put it in the oven and set a timer for 45 minutes. It needs to be glazed."

With that, he left the kitchen.

When it was all said and done, I sat down to a plate.

"Tattoo, this is really, really great, dude."

"Thanks. But I don't think I can make it much longer. It's just not worth the work."

Yes it is, Tattoo, yes it surely is.


Misery Meatloaf (human family sized loaf)

Preheat your oven to 375.

Put the following in a large mixing bowl:

2 pounds of fresh, high fat ground beef
1 medium minced onion
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 eggs
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Soak 2 slices of white bread (crusts removed) for a few minutes in a separate bowl that contains a 1/2 cup milk. Break the bread up, add it to the meat mixture and mix well. Form into loaf and place in oven for 45 minutes.

While the loaf is cooking, make a glaze with the following:

1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp spicy brown mustard

Brush the loaf with the glaze, and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until meat has reached 160.

Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before eating.

Bacon Lovers' Variation

Before placing the loaf in oven, cover it with a few pieces of raw bacon. The fat oozes into the loaf, and the crispy top is awesome.

West Texas "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" Variation

A friend's dad used to make meatloaf with hot dogs placed lengthwise inside the loaf like girders. Each slice would have a disc or two of dog within. I suppose those creative enough could make a smiley face, but I've only heard tell of this variation and simply included it to gross you out.

Postscript: Shortly after I visited the restaurant, Misery Meatloaf was taken off the menu, much to the dismay of the restaurant's customers. Tattoo simply couldn't deal.


Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and gags at the sight of vegetarians.


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