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In the mid-eighties, before the nightly news scared my mom into switching to turkey, my family ate a lot of ground beef. It was on the menu at least a couple nights a week. Sometimes it was crumbled into tomato sauce and served over spaghetti noodles. During the summer, we had it scrambled with vegetables and rice and packed into overgrown zucchini.
On particularly harried nights, my mom would season a pound while still in the package, divide it into four patties and plop them into a pan. When burgers were prepared thusly, they were always served with carrot and celery sticks, with ranch dressing on the side for dipping.
The best nights were when the ground beef was mixed with oatmeal, an egg or two, chopped onion, garlic powder and a squirt of ketchup and packed into a loaf pan. I loved my mom’s meatloaf with a passion, mostly because she always made enough for sandwiches the next day. I have always been something of a fool for a good meatloaf sandwich.
In those days, my meatloaf lunch wasn’t a complex affair. It was always a half sandwich, made on whole-wheat bread spread with ketchup and mustard. Packed with one of those frozen disks to keep it all cool, it was the best thing to be found inside a canvas lunch bag.
Well into my adult years, I continued to make my meatloaf sandwiches in much the same way. However, recently my eyes were opened to a different technique, thanks to Sandwich King Jeff Mauro. His recipe for the All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich is an eye-opener. He has you start with a potato roll and then instructs you to top the meat with cheddar cheese, crunchy fried onion bits and bread and butter pickles.
Beyond the terrific flavor, I really like the fact that this can be a mostly make-ahead meal. Bake the meatloaf over the weekend and slice it up for dinner sandwiches on Monday or Tuesday. I love it when The Weekender helps make the coming week easier.
Before you start assembling your sandwiches, here are a few things you should know:
— Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list. Outside of the different ground meats called for, most are pantry staples.
— If you plan on serving this meatloaf to a crowd of people, I recommend leaving off the glaze during baking. It makes for a very sweet finished product, which isn’t to all tastes.
— Jeff offers a good tip in this recipe, which is that you should always add one egg for every pound of meat when making meatloaf. I think that’s why my past meatloaves were always a little crumbly — not enough egg as binder.
— When it comes time to assemble the sandwiches, I like to take an extra minute or two to lightly toast the buns. It adds another nice texture to the finished meal.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in May 2012.