There's nothing like the picture of a bowl of raw meat to get people's juices flowing in the morning, is there? Well, to be honest, there's just no way a slice of cooked meatloaf can be photographed appetizingly. At least not within my skill level. I tried, valiantly, I did! But the slices just lay there, grayish and pale. Even a squirt of ketchup did nothing to gussy them up (well, aesthetically, at least). So, I present to you, raw turkey meat. Good morning!
Back in my archives of New York Times recipe clippings, I had a recipe for turkey-spinach meatloaf. I recall nothing about the article it accompanied, nor am I entirely sure why I clipped this particular recipe. I mean, I like ground meat and spices just fine, but meatloaf has never really been something I've aspired to make. A good hamburger is one thing, but meatloaf? Since I was having friends over, I figured it would be an easy main course - lightened by the turkey and fresh spinach - and something everyone would like.
First, I simmered six cloves of garlic in olive oil until they were tender (the garlic oil can be saved and used for pasta sauce or sauteed vegetables, for example). I squashed the soft cloves in a bowl along with the ground meat, chopped thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and freshly ground pepper. I also wilted and drained two large bags of spinach with a sauteed onion.
I chopped up the wilted spinach (not finely enough, by the way) and added it to the raw meat mixture.
This was all squished up together and patted into two loaf shapes. I heated some of the garlic oil in a pan and added the loaves to sear on each side.
I think I should have probably done one at a time, instead of crowding the pan. Then I put the entire thing into the oven for a little less than an hour. When the inside of the meatloaf registered 160 degrees, I took the pan out. I also promptly burned my hands (not once, but twice!) on the searingly hot handle of the pan. No, I did not win the Smart Cook Award that day.
I served the meatloaf sliced and with ketchup. My guests ate it gamely, but agreed it was nothing special (other parts of the meal were, but that is a story for another time). And after some deep thoughts and discussion, I've come to the following conclusion: meatloaf is a highly personal dish. It might be from a recipe that your mother or grandmother passed down to you. You could have deep cognitive memories attached to the memories of eating it or the smell of the kitchen as it was being prepared and you were too short to even see the counter. If some upstart comes along and tries to make you a lightened, newfangled version of this dish, with no metaphysical baggage attached its preparation and what it could possibly mean in the context of your family and your shared memories, it's going to be pretty forgettable. Either that, or turkey meatloaf is just plain boring.
My advice is: make your meatloaf your own. Don't follow someone else's recipe unless that someone is related by blood or by marriage to you. And if all else fails, eat the meatloaf with lots and lots of ketchup.