Experts Share the Steps for Making the Classic Meatloaf
This is a tale of two mothers’ meatloaves.
One meatloaf was born on a chicken bone of an island 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, its recipe cobbled by Canadian expats. The origin of the other remains locked in the brain of an elderly woman in Toledo, Ohio. Both meatloaves, however, share the secret of the perfect meatloaf.
That secret is … Oats.
“When I was growing up in Toledo, my mother used oatmeal and Ritz Crackers as the filler,” said Cynthia Kallile, who owns The Meatloaf Bakery in Chicago. “I use it, too, and it’s a great idea, keeps the meat very moist.”
Kallile could be Tina Fey’s sister. From a distance, if you catch her darting around behind the windows of her shop, which sells meatloaf and only meatloaf, you can see the resemblance. You can hear it too. Ask her about the specifics of her mother’s meatloaf, which she bakes in cupcake tins and sells as “The Mother Loaf.” She will stammer as though she just heard “30 Rock” was hiring understudies:
“Well, I had to talk to my mother when I was getting ready for (the bakery) and I said, ‘Mom, how do you make your meatloaf?’ and she said, ‘I just make it,’ and I said, ‘But how?’
“It was hard pulling it out of her. She said, ‘A little bit of this, a little bit of that,’ and I said, ‘How much is a little?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know. I just make it. With Worcestershire sauce.’ And I said, ‘OK, how much Worcestershire?’ and she said, ‘Some Worcestershire.’
“That’s how we make meatloaf in my family, by instinct. But that’s why I love meatloaf,” said Kallile, who gave up a career as a marketing executive to open the bakery. “It’s a license to be creative, and people don’t take advantage of that.”
Still, creativity aside, there are practical things you can learn about making meatloaf that will help. For instance, trust in your own frugality.
Which brings us to that other perfect meatloaf. It can be found on Nantucket, where it is lost on the summer residents and overlooked by tourists who jam the cobblestone streets from June to Labor Day. But among locals it is legend, and can be found at a shack called Claudette’s on the east rim of the island. It also is a fine example of how meatloaf need not be for winter.