When I was growing up, meatloaf was part of the weekly menu. My Mom made it with ground beef from the butcher’s shop, and I can remember sitting there and watching her prepare it. In my kid’s mind, this seemed like some kind of magic because a dash of this, a pinch of that, and Mom had whipped up something truly delicious.
Well, cut to my adult life and the reality that we are trying to stay away from red meat completely in this house. We have been eating fish and chicken and then the usual non-meat things like pasta salads, pizza, and veggie omelets. All of this is healthy and we can come up with enough variety, but this old red meat lover felt nostalgic for some of those things from my childhood, especially good old meatloaf.
When I met my wife and she came to my parents’ house the first time for dinner, she stunned everyone because she did not know what meatloaf was (besides a chubby singer who had a great hit album). She did come to appreciate this unique culinary experience to some degree, though she still believes that ground beef can be utilized more suitably as meatballs or hamburgers.
I got the idea to make a turkey meatloaf one day last week, and I went to the supermarket (we no longer have butcher shops in my neighborhood) where butchers are rarely seen and seldom heard. I did see a couple of guys behind a hazy partition in white aprons smeared with blood, but I decided against asking for their advice when I heard the slam of the meat cleavers.
Anyway, I sorted through many different varieties of ground turkey and chicken to be found in the refrigerator case, and was happily surprised to discover that ground turkey looks a lot like ground beef. I settled on two pounds of 98 percent fat free ground turkey, bought the rest of my ingredients, and headed home with my eighteen month old son, who was probably wondering what meatloaf was going to look and taste like.
Using a large bowl (the way Mom always did), I dropped the two pounds of ground turkey into it. I then added two eggs, three slices of crumbled white bread (you can substitute bread crumbs if you wish), two cloves of crushed garlic, one sliced and diced onion, a generous amount of parsley, a pinch of salt, a dash of red pepper, and half a cup of ketchup. Now came the fun part (and the one thing Mom used to let me do to help her as a kid). All of this mish-mash has to be mixed thoroughly by hand. As I mushed all the ingredients together, the memory of the experience in my mother’s kitchen came back to me and the sweet smell of the mixture was exactly the same as it used to be.
Once everything is completely mixed, it is time to fashion the “loaf” part of this culinary endeavor. I decided on separating the mixture into two smaller loaves, but you can keep it all together and make one big loaf too. I happen to have Mom’s reliable old meatloaf pan, which allows the grease to drip through holes in the bottom to a second pan, and I would advise you to use this kind of device that is available in stores or online.
Coat the pan with a thin film of olive oil, place the mixture into it, and pop the meatloaf into the oven at 350 degrees for one hour. The other loaf went into a large Ziploc bag and was stored in the freezer. This I also learned from my mother, and it is a good way to give yourself a second fresh portion for another dinner.
Once it is done, serve with whipped mashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice. My Italian father always preferred to have spaghetti with his meatloaf and put marinara sauce on top of it, which is a perfectly fine way to eat it. I prefer it served as it is as to not complicate the wonderful aroma of the meatloaf and its intricate flavorings that are detectable upon first bite.
This turkey meatloaf was a success. It tasted remarkably like what my Mom had made with beef, and even my son ate a few little pieces without squawking. It made us all happy to be enjoying something that was delicious and healthy too.