Last week, when Susan Collins, Republican Senator of Maine, broke with her party to vote against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, I know what you were all thinking: Yeah, it’s good to know where she stands on vouchers and charter schools, but what I really want to know is: Where does she stand on meatloaf?
I hear you! As any patriot worth her kosher salt knows, there is no single correct way to combine meat, egg, breadcrumbs, and spices to make America’s most iconic comfort food. Maybe you favor the beef-pork-veal trinity for your grind, maybe you’ve long since converted to turkey; maybe you fold in milk-soaked bread or refuse to acknowledge a loaf’s legitimacy without Italian breadcrumbs. Ask any collection of cooks what their secret ingredient is, and you’ll hear everything from sumac to Sriracha to ricotta to hoisin to cumin — each resulting in a recipe as special and unique as a snowflake.
Thankfully, we have A Meatloaf in Every Oven, written by veteran New York Times staffers Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer to report on Collins’s protein position and more. Omg, so much more! Borne of a mutual passion for meatloaf — yes, I meant to write that — their hilariously reverent collection is a decade in the making and features over fifty recipes from chefs, grandmothers, food writers, and Capitol Hill personalities on both sides of the aisle. At the Times, Bruni is an op-ed columnist who was once restaurant reviewer, and Steinhauer covers Congress (see: this profile) when she’s not cooking for her young kids. (Remember her Food52 column?) It explains why you will find Mario Batali’s Stuffed Meatloaf and April Bloomfield’s Lamb Loaf with Yogurt and Mint only a few pages away from Senator Collins’s mustard and horseradish-spiked recipe handed down from her mother Pat.
Trust me, it works. Even if you consider it treason to deviate from your grandmother’s tried-and-true, Heinz-smothered, bacon-topped beauty and don’t plan on trying out any of the recipes — the book is just so much fun. I kept reading parts out loud to Andy when it first arrived.
“We both feel that when we cook meatloaf, we’re connected to something bigger,” they write in the introduction. “A tradition, a time line. Meatloaf is elemental. It’s enduring. And if comfort foods are those that are not only an answer to hunger, but also an existential balm, served without undue fuss or expensive implements, then meatloaf rules the category. It reigns supreme. It’s the fluffy caftan of comfort foods.”
They were nice enough to offer not only the official statement on the senator’s Bipartisan Meatloaf — below — but a giveaway: A free copy of their book to two random commenters below. Contest ends Thursday, February 16 at noon ET. Good luck!
Susan Collins’s Bipartisan Meatloaf
Excerpted with Permission from A Meatloaf in Every Oven, by Frank Bruni & Jennifer Steinhauer
Senator Susan Collins of Maine may be best known for her willingness to cooperate with colleagues across the aisle and for her expertise on appropriations, but her non-political passion is all things food. She runs a weekly lunch group with her fellow Republicans, in which each member shows off his or her home-state specialty. She spends every weekend in front of the stove or oven, cooking up treats for her husband. Among his favorites is the meatloaf created by her mother, Pat. It has a few special twists: pungent dry mustard, horseradish and a topping of barbecue sauce rather than ketchup. “I grew up in a large family with five brothers and sisters,” the senator told us. “The six of us all had very different food preferences, but on one thing we were unanimous: We all loved my mother’s meatloaf.”
2 teaspoons olive oil
3⁄4 cup minced onion
2 large eggs
2 pounds ground chuck
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1⁄4 cup minced green bell peppers
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1⁄4 cup whole milk
3⁄4 cup barbecue sauce
1 slice bacon
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet or a large baking pan with parchment paper. (This loaf can also be made in a lightly oiled loaf pan, to keep it strictly Pat Collins correct.)
2. Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat, add the onions and sauté until they are soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork. Mix in the beef and then the bread crumbs, (slightly cooled) onions and bell peppers. Add the horseradish, dry mustard, milk and 1⁄4 cup of the barbecue sauce and lightly combine with your clean hands until just mixed. Shape the mixture into a loaf on the baking sheet or pack it gently into a loaf pan.
4. Place the bacon slice lengthwise on top, and then spread the remaining 1⁄2 cup barbecue sauce over the loaf.
5. Bake for roughly 50 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches about 150 degrees F. Let the loaf rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.
Note: The meatloaf pictured above is not the Senator’s — it’s my mother-in-law’s, from Dinner: A Love Story.