For people who’ve never eaten at my mother’s bounteous table, I have an extremely important piece of advice: when offered seconds, if you want a lot more, say you want a little more.
If you want a little more, say you don’t want any more.
If you actually don’t want any more, you have to get up from the table and run for your life.
But even so, she’ll meet you at the front door with neatly packaged leftovers — enough leftovers for a hungry wrestling team.
First of all, the woman never learned to cook for approximately the correct numbers of diners. She’ll call me concerned that she hasn’t made enough meatballs and sausages for the six coming for dinner.
“I’ve got 18 meatballs, 15 sausages, and I’m making 10 pounds of potato salad. Do you think I should pick up another dozen sausages and make two pounds of macaroni salad … just in case?”
(I am not exaggerating, Gentle Reader, these are literally the amounts of food she makes. The Kid and I joke about it.)
And she’s never explained what the “just in case” is. Just in case the entire nation of Italy unexpectedly shows up at dinner time? Just in case there is never any more food ever and this spread has to last until the rapture?
So when The Kid and I hosted my parents for Sunday dinner at my new place for the first time, we had a plan: we’d feed them until they were two bites from popping, and send them home with enough leftovers for at least two meals.
They really like my meatloaf, so we made that, along with buttermilk mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots. But we made twice the amount we needed for a hearty dinner.
And we sent them home with about 2½ pounds of food. But we also had enough so that each of us had plenty for a big, fat, meatloaf sandwich.
Thanks for your time.
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Mushroom Gravy Meatloaf
2 pounds button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon grated horseradish
½ cup sherry
1 quart beef stock
salt and pepper to taste (so taste it, please)
1 stick butter
1/2 -3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Melt butter and stir in flour. Cook on low until it has browned to the color of peanut butter. Set aside.
Into the hot fat, put mushrooms, and cook until the liquid is cooked out, and they begin to brown. Add onions, and cook until they soften and start to lightly brown. Add garlic, and when you can smell it, pour in sherry and let it reduce until it almost dry. Pour in beef stock and the herbs and flavorings. When it comes to a boil, slowly stir in roux, a bit at a time until the thickness is to your liking.
Panade (The goo that will flavor the meat and keep it moist):
1 cup breadcrumbs (try making your own from ground, leftover bread, they’re much less sandy)
In a large bowl put about 3/4 cup of cooled gravy, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Stir it all together until it is completely mixed. It should be the consistency of loose, wet oatmeal.
You’re now ready to make meat loaf.
2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In the bowl of panade, break the meat into smallish pieces. Gently mix hamburger and pande. You don’t want to mix it too much, or it will get rubbery while baking. You should still see bits of meat and goo in the final mixture.
Firmly press the mixture down into the bowl bottom; this will keep it together, while not overworking it.
Turn out into baking dish and shape into a meat loaf shape.
Cover the top with the reserved gravy, and place into oven heated to 350°. Bake for one hour and 20 minutes.
While it finishes cooking, reheat the gravy on gentle heat on the stove top.
Slice and serve, topped with a little of the gravy.
*And for the very best meatloaf sandwich, refrigerate the leftovers overnight, then slice into 1-inch slices. Place into a hot skillet and brown on both sides. Cover each slice with a piece of cheese, cover skillet and allow to melt.
Place on thick, hearty bread with a schmear of horseradish mayo or a combo of barbecue sauce and mayo. Top with some crisp salad greens and enjoy.
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