There's no doubt that meatloaf is a comforting dish. And tinkering with someone's idea of the perfect comfort food can be tricky. I discovered this recently when I was asked to update a number of classic dishes—including pot roast, shepherd's pie, and, yes, meatloaf—as part of the renovation of Oscar's Restaurant in the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City. When I started working on the recipes, I realized that there's a fine line between refreshing a familiar dish and creating an entirely new one.
With meatloaf, I was concerned because the most familiar meatloaf tends to be dry, bland, and boring. I wanted a moist and tender meatloaf, but at the same time I also wanted a good balance of flavors. Meatloaf needs to be flavorful, but in a subtle way; no one wants or expects to be knocked back by a wallop of garlic or a kick of jalapeño.
Fortunately, a delicious, moist meatloaf that wouldn't betray too many good childhood memories wasn't hard to conceive. I started with equal amounts of ground beef, pork, and veal (see my recipe for details). A meatloaf made entirely from ground beef will definitely be heading in the dry and bland direction; I wanted the veal and pork for flavor and moisture. Next, I added judicious amounts of everyday ingredients: mustard, ketchup, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. For a mellower flavor, I first sautéed the onion and the little bit of garlic I wanted to add.