Until recently, meatloaf was often viewed as being ordinary by food professionals and “gourmet” home cooks. Although meatloaf is now touted as “chic” in trendy restaurants focusing on American cuisine, many home cooks still hesitate to serve this truly comforting entree when entertaining. What a shame! This meatloaf recipe will fill your home with a sensational aroma and fill your mouth with extraordinary flavor, whether you’re one of those secret admirers or an out-of-the-closet meatloaf fan. Although I specify a combination of ground beef and veal, feel free to substitute all ground turkey (mix dark and light meat), or use only ground beef (round, chuck or top sirloin), beef and pork–or a combination of all four. For best results, ask the butcher to grind the meats together for the best balance of flavors and try to assemble the meatloaf early in the day (or a much as one day ahead) so the mixture binds together well. As far as the topping though, although its easiest to use the bottled chili sauce, I highly suggest making a doubled version of my Steak Sauce and using that, instead. actually, I suggest making an even larger batch and using it to pass around the table, when serving (and it’s really good when served warm!).
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Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and sauté the vegetables until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a small bowl, soak the bread cubes in the milk. Place the ground meat in a large mixing bowl and add the ½ cup chili sauce and all the remaining ingredients (except the chili sauce for the topping). Gently squeeze the bread cubes to remove excess milk and add the bread to the bowl along with the cooled vegetables. Combine the ingredients gently, using your hands and/or a wide blending fork or a large serving fork. Avoid mashing or squeezing the mixture, which tends to result in a tough meatloaf. Transfer the mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish and, using your hands; gently shape into a free-form loaf. Smooth the top with your hands and sprinkle generously with more freshly ground black pepper. Cover and chill the unbaked meatloaf for two to twenty-four hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (375°F, if not using a glass dish.) Just before baking, pour and then spread the entire bottle of room temperature chili sauce over the meatloaf, covering the top and sides completely. Place the loaf into the preheated oven and bake 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and let the meatloaf sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, warm a serving platter.
Insert 2 turning spatulas under opposite ends of meatloaf, so that they meet close to the center. Carefully lift and transfer the loaf to the warmed platter. (Alternatively, slice the meatloaf at the table, directly from the baking dish.) Slice and serve hot or at room temperature. Or enjoy chilled directly from the refrigerator.
The listed vegetables may be chopped or minced 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated in separate, well-covered bowls.
The meatloaf can be assembled totally, but not topped or baked, 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated well covered. Bake straight from the refrigerator, following the prescribed baking time.