"A meat loaf is more or less a rough-hewn pâté. Ground meat is typically mixed with seasonings, some raw onion, and one or more herbs and then shaped into a loaf and baked," writes James Peterson in his JBF Award–winning book Meat: A Kitchen Education. This recipe, which is adapted from Peterson's, truly is that easy. (How easy? You don't even need to preheat the oven.) Though Peterson calls for using ground pork and veal as well as beef, the dish is just as delicious when made with beef alone.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, plus more for the pan
- 1 onion, minced, or grated
- 1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
- 3 slices dense-crumb white bread, crusts removed
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 pound ground chuck
- 3/4 pound ground pork shoulder
- 3/4 pound ground veal
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
- 8 slices bacon
Grease a roasting pan that is at least 12 inches long.
In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring the mushrooms every couple of minutes until all the water they release evaporates. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the bread and milk and work together to form a paste. Add the cooked mushroom mixture, ground meats, egg, salt, and pepper and work together with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Form the mixture into a loaf about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide. Wrap the bacon slices crosswise around the loaf, tucking the ends of the slices under the loaf then place the loaf on the prepared roasting pan.
Slide the pan into the oven, turn on the oven to 350°F (there is no need to preheat), and bake the meat loaf for about 1 1/4 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 145°F. Do not cook it any longer or the meat will dry out.
Transfer to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes. Cut into slices 1/2-inch thick and serve the slices wrapped with the bacon.
8 main-course servings