Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Turkey Meatloaf

We talk a lot about all the greed in the world, but I know there's something else.  I mean, look at us:  we get so much joy from watching someone else open presents that we do it at parties.  We sit around for hours mesmerized as others play video games.  And when we see someone getting enjoyment from something we've cooked for them?  Man, that's the jackpot.

I firmly believe in the importance of compassion, of hospitality.  Not for the recipient, but the giver.  I've recently learned about myself that it's utterly crucial to my general happiness to have people over regularly -- it feels nourishing to me.  Not only does it fill my quiet home with conversation and conviviality and force me to keep the place clean, but it gives me an opportunity to be hospitable:  to cook for others, make sure they have everything they need, use what I have to make others feel good.  And that opportunity is a gift.

Recently my friend Carolyn had some serious complications after giving birth to her second child.  An infection led to nights in the hospital, a days-long induced coma, and emergency surgery.  Those first days that should have been spent bonding at home with her family's brand new human were instead filled with worry and terrifying uncertainty.  Thankfully, Carolyn and baby Takashi are both doing great now, but it was a harrowing time for the family.

I'm not super close with Carolyn -- she's one of those people whom I rediscover how much I love every rare time I see her, but when I got the news through friends, hearing the clinical phrases for such awful circumstances was chilling.  I was so scared for her, and so sad for this nightmare her family was going through.  And as everyone does, my immediate thoughts went to what I could possibly do to help.  

Friends swiftly set up a MealBaby registry, and I was more than eager to sign up.  And so, on a sunny lunch hour last week, I got to drop off a meal of turkey meatloaf and roasted broccoli for the family, and spend a few quiet moments with Carolyn and her sweet, chubby little guy.  And all I could think of as I handed off the meal was what an honor it was to be able to share in the family's extraordinarily trauma, and to be able to help out even in the tiniest way.

the prize

Turkey Meatloaf
serves 4-6 people

Turkey meatloaf is commonly disappointing, but I've been told by some tough customers that mine is, and I quote, "amazing."  I don't come from meatloaf heritage (my mom tells me that back in Iran, they used to put hard-boiled eggs and whole carrots inside, so you'd get surprise designs when you sliced through.  SO WEIRD.), which gives me the freedom to go in whatever direction I want.  So, my meatloaf sways Italian, favors moistness, and gets a generous slather of homemade glaze.  Make it for someone who needs it -- you'll be glad you did.

1/3 C Breadcrumbs (or a slice of fresh bread, torn into pieces)
1/4 C Milk
2.5 - 3 lb Ground turkey
Olive oil  (optional, only if you are using super lean turkey, to add back some fat)
1 Small onion
2 Cloves garlic, minced or pressed (more if you want)
1 Tbs dried thyme leaves, or about 2 tbs fresh (be generous)
3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
2 Eggs
3 Tbs Tomato paste (from a small can)
2 Tbs Worcestershire
2 Tbs Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper, generously

The rest of the can of tomato paste, plus 1 more small can
1 Tbs Molasses
1 Tbs Brown sugar
3 Tbs Red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, or whatever)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, moisten the breadcrumbs or bread with milk to make the (patented) moistmaker.  Add turkey and optional olive oil to bowl.  Grate in onion to get more juices and to get it better integrated with meat (this is a kabob trick).  Add in the rest of the ingredients, mix to incorporate well.  (I like using my hands to smush it together.)

Form into a loaf on a parchment-lined baking pan or pyrex (I like this better than doing it in a loaf pan -- you get the sauce on the sides, and it’s easier to cut and take out. Also this much meat wouldn't fit in a loaf pan).

Prepare the glaze:  in a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.  Taste it:  we’re looking for balance here, and the inspiration is ketchup -- the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and salty.  If it’s too sweet, add more vinegar; too sour, more sugar.  If it’s generally bland, try molasses and/or salt.

Spread the glaze over the loaf. If you have extra, save it to serve alongside (though, be wary of cross-contamination here:  maybe use one utensil to scoop glaze onto meat (without letting utensil actually touch the meat), and a different one to spread?)
packed for delivery

Bake the meatloaf for about 60-80 minutes.  Check on it at 45 and 60 minutes -- if the glaze is burning, cover it with foil. The internet says it should register 160 if you stick a meat thermometer into the middle, but if you don’t have one, just cut it open -- it should looked cooked, not raw.


  1. What a thoughtful post. Your turkey meatloaf looks great too!

  2. What a traumatic story, it really brings home the importance of friends and what that community can do in regards to recovery! The glaze on this meatloaf looks AWESOME!

  3. Agreed, Heather! Developing community is of huge importance to me -- it just makes the world a better place. =)