My father believed you could tell a good good restaurant by looking at its menu.
“If it’s a limited menu, that means they probably do it well,” he told me. “But if there are a lot of menu items, watch out. They could all be mediocre.”
For the most part, I think he was correct. The same applies to the amateur chef, at least when starting out. Take it one step at a time until you have some successes under your belt (so to speak).
When I began cooking, I concentrated on doing a few modest dishes well. Among them were meatloaf, stew and lasagna — inexpensive, easy-to-make classics that could be gussied up a bit when you wanted to impress someone.
I have since graduated to more upscale dinners, but I still like meatloaf (lasagna and stew, too). You can serve meatloaf with just about any vegetable, salad or side dish.
It is a staple here in the midwest, especially as November shifts into December and the snow begins to fall.
Easy Meat Loaf
2 pounds of ground chuck
1-cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1-cup skim milk
1-2 tablespoons grainy French mustard
1 tablespoon minced onion
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Place the first two ingredients in a large bowl and blend. It’s best to do this with your hands. Plunge them in and mix the crumbs and the meat. Watch out: The meat will be cold.
Beat the eggs, catsup, mustard and onion in a separate bowl and add to the meat-and-crumb mix. Season. (I rarely find that salt is needed.) You can use a wooden spoon, but really, the hands work best. This method really puts you in touch with your meatloaf.
It’s best to use one of those meatloaf pans that has a perforated insert you can lift out. These pans allow the fat to drain off.
Note: Measurements are approximate. For a lighter, crumblier meatloaf, use only one egg.