2011-03-24 / Features

Meat Loaf Embodies the Essence of Comfort Food


Few meals embody Mom’s homecooking like meat loaf. Versatile and easy to prepare, meat loaf can be enjoyed in myriad waysdependingonmuchachef wants to experiment. Few meals embody Mom’s homecooking like meat loaf. Versatile and easy to prepare, meat loaf can be enjoyed in myriad waysdependingonmuchachef wants to experiment. Perhaps no dish embodies the term “comfort food” more than meat loaf. Ideal for a cold winter’s night or whenever it’s time to recall a homecooked meal at Mom’s house, meat loaf is a versatile dish that can be cooked in any number of ways depending on the chef.

Another lovable attribute of meat loaf is that it’s relatively easy to prepare. And because it’s so easy, chefs can experiment with an extra ingredient here or there to add flavor and ensure their meat loaf is truly unique. Such is the case with Chef Brad Levy’s “Firefly Meat Loaf,” which uses a host of spices and bacon to add extra flavor that makes this particular meat loaf uniquely delicious. That’s especially true in the eyes of Bill Niman, who asked Levy to share the recipe in his “The Niman Ranch Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), a collection of dozens of recipes from chefs who use Niman Ranch meat in their restaurants.

Firefly Meat Loaf
Serves 4 to 6
21/4 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 yellow onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
11/4 cups dried bread crumbs
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
6 slices apple wood-smoked bacon
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg



















Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Put the beef in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute to release its fragrance. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes, or until tender. Let cool.

Combine the bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until the bread crumbs absorb the milk.

Whisk together the eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, celery seeds, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Pour over the beef. Add the vegetable mixture and the soaked bread crumbs. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed or with your hands until the beef is evenly distributed. Be careful not to overmix.

Shape the meat mixture into a 4- by 6- by 10-inch loaf in the center of a rimmed baking sheet. Wrap the bacon slices crosswise around the meat loaf. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cooked through. For crisp bacon, slip under the broiler for about 2 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve.

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