My Recipe Box

Meatloaf Makeovers

We asked three chefs for their versions of this comforting favorite and got surprisingly different—and delicious—results

by Denise Mickelsen

fromFine Cooking
Issue 91

A plate of piping hot meatloaf with gravy is hearty home cooking at its best, and everyone has a favorite—or at least familiar—recipe. But sometimes familiar isn’t good enough. We want new flavors, exciting combinations, and special techniques. To get you started, we asked three chefs to develop their own tasty spins on the traditional meatloaf. Whether you’re craving something tender and juicy, earthy and decadent, or warmly spiced and tangy, you’ll find that one of their versions is your new favorite.

Jessica Bard, cookbook author and culinary instructor, wowed us with her bacon-wrapped meatloaf served with a zesty mushroom gravy spiked with sherry. New York City chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli uses the classic combination of beef, pork, and veal in her meatloaf, but she veers off the beaten path by adding sour cream for richness and scallions and herbs for freshness. Finally, Suvir Saran, of Dévi restaurant in New York City, spices up his version with the warm Indian flavors of coriander, cumin, and ginger. Mushrooms, peppers, and a sweet and spicy glaze step up the moisture and tang.

Jessica Bard: Wrap with bacon and serve with gravy

For my version of this classic comfort food, I focused on the flavors of mushrooms, sherry, and bacon. For sweetness and tang, I quickly marinated raw minced onions, mushrooms, and garlic in sherry and then added the mixture, plus Worcestershire and brown sugar, to the meat. Instead of using breadcrumbs as my binder, I tore bread into small pieces so they would provide delicious pockets of softness in each slice of meatloaf. For a decadent touch, I wrapped the meatloaf in bacon and then used a bit more bacon to make a velvety mushroom gravy. It’s a perfect sauce for the meatloaf and works really well with a side of mashed potatoes, too.

Alexandra Guarnaschelli: Sour cream is the secret to moist meatloaf

Meatloaf is truly a part of our American culinary repertoire, and as such, I take it seriously. For this recipe, I wanted to combine the tanginess of ketchup with the creaminess of sour cream and the freshness of scallions and tarragon. The scallions add a particularly nice bite without being overbearing or too oniony, and the sour cream makes this loaf super moist. Whenever I make meatloaf, I sauté a tiny portion of the meat mixture before I form the loaf so I can taste it and make sure the seasoning is correct. Serving meatloaf with mashed potatoes is classic, but I prefer something with a bit more textural contrast, such as wilted hearts of romaine lettuce with a splash of balsamic vinegar or al dente orzo seasoned with freshly grated Parmigiano.

Suvir Saran: Spice up your meatloaf with Indian flavors

Inspired by my friend Richard Arakelian’s recipe, this meatloaf features toasted breadcrumbs and mushrooms, which add welcome moisture, and warm Indian spices like garam masala, coriander, and cumin, which add an unexpected earthy undertone. Try to handle the meat as gently as possible when forming the loaf so that the mixture remains tender and light. Brushed with a spicy-sweet glaze (made from ketchup, Worcestershire, and spices), this recipe always puts happy smiles on the faces of my guests. I love it served with spiced roasted cauliflower or even potato salad.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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