Meatloaf & Chili: traditional AND trendy

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“Make new friends, but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold.”

If you were ever a Girl Scout, you’ll now have the music to those familiar lyrics stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

For which you have my utmost sympathy – but the sentiment behind the words is true and lasting.

As is our national affinity for two of winter’s prime comfort foods: meatloaf, and chili.

I pay a lot of attention to what recipes people search for online; not only is it part of my job here at King Arthur Flour, I simply find it fascinating. What are people cooking and baking out there – across America, and around the world?

Well, here are the top recipes Americans were looking for earlier this week, according to Google Trends, one of the Google family of tools to which I turn often. I look at both “top” (perennial favorites) and “rising” (currently hot).

As you can see, meatloaf is “hot;” and when I toggled to “top,” there was my old friend chili. So, dear readers, your friends and neighbors are actively searching for these cold-weather comfort foods – how about you?

If the answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place. I’m sure you already have favorite recipes for both meatloaf and chili; but I’ll bet that’s never stopped you from checking out someone else’s prized version of these iconic recipes, has it?

What I’m going to do with the rest of this post is show you not so much the recipes themselves; but what to do with the end product: namely, use meatloaf for the cornerstone of a crowd-sized, oven-grilled meatloaf/bacon/cheese sandwich; and chili to create a one-bowl pasta meal: Cincinnati’s famous five-way chili.

Let’s start with the bread for your meatloaf sandwich.

Blitz Bread is a fast, simple bread that’s perfect for crowd-sized sandwiches. You can make it start to finish in under 2 hours, and only about 2 minutes of that time is actual work. Mix the batter; spoon it into a 9″ x 13″ pan; let it rise; and bake until golden.

I love this bread for sandwiches; and it’s an easy way to add whole wheat to your family’s diet. The version above substitutes 1 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour for 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour. Trust me – no one will know there’s whole wheat in their meatloaf sandwich!

Once the bread is baked and cooled, you’re ready to prepare the filling for your sandwich.

First, let’s make meatloaf. Use your own meatloaf formula, one that uses 2 to 2 1/2 pounds meat. Or check out my favorite, as follows:

Combine the following:

2 1/2 pounds “meatloaf mixture,” hamburger, or your favorite combination of ground beef/pork/veal
1 cup peeled, finely diced onion
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, e.g. panko
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons Italian seasoning, or your favorite combination of dried herbs (oregano, basil, etc.)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pat the mixture into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.

Bake the meatloaf in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until it’s thoroughly cooked; it should register at least 165°F on a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the meat in the middle of the pan.

Remove the meatloaf from the oven, and drain it of all fat and juices. It will have shrunk quite a bit; that’s OK.

Allow the meatloaf to cool slightly in the pan, until you can lift it out without it crumbling. If you’re not going to make the sandwich right away, refrigerate it, still in the pan, until you’re ready to use it.

Save yourself some time and energy by baking the bacon at the same time you’re baking the meatloaf.

Lay 3/4 pound bacon in a single layer in a large, rimmed baking sheet (such as a half-sheet pan). For easiest cleanup, line the pan with parchment first, as I’ve done here.

Bake the bacon until it’s brown and starting to crisp, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven, drain the fat, and place it on paper towels to continue draining. If you’re not using the bacon right away, refrigerate it until ready to use.

At last! We’re ready to assemble the sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.

Cut the bread in half around its perimeter, to make two large (9″ x 13″) slices: a top, and a bottom. Lay one slice, bottom side (brown side) up, onto a clean work surface.

Why am I making an inside-out sandwich, with the crust inside, and the interior outside?

Well, here’s my theory; and I use it successfully with hamburger buns, too. When I’m making a grilled sandwich, the interior of the bread, with its open holes, tends to make a light/crunchy crust, rather than one that’s simply hard. And if the sandwich filling is juicy (e.g., a fat burger, or hot meatloaf), laying it between two brown, “outside” crusts keeps the juices where they belong, and prevents the sandwich from becoming soggy.

Lay the meatloaf atop the bread, trimming any bread overlap.

Top with ketchup; then the cooked bacon; then about 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded American or cheddar cheese; then the remaining slice of bread, brown side down (white side up).

Brush the top of the bread with olive oil or melted butter (or melted garlic butter), if desired.

It’s taking shape nicely, wouldn’t you say?

Place a clean baking sheet atop the sandwich, and weigh it down with something heat-proof and heavy (e.g., a cast iron skillet). This will press the sandwich together as it bakes, for a panini/grilled effect.

Bake the sandwich for about 20 minutes, then remove the top baking sheet. Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until it’s starting to brown, and the filling is hot.

Remove the sandwich from the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board or other secure surface. Let it rest for about 10 minutes; then cut it into squares, and serve.

Admit it; you’re dying for this sandwich right now!

You and thousands of your fellow Americans, all searching online for the perfect meatloaf recipe…

And how about all those folks Googling “chili recipe?”

This Cincinnati-style chili is a bit different than most. It has no beans…

…and some unusual spices. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate?

Cincinnati-style chili isn’t really meant to be eaten on its own. It’s more often used as a very hearty garnish. Here’s what my fellow test-kitchen baker Susan Reid says about it:

“A very smooth blend of meat, vegetables and spices, this chili is more a meat sauce than the robust, chunky dish you might be picturing in your mind. Depending on the number of added accompaniments, Cincinnati chili can be three-way (thick spaghetti topped with chili and cheese); four-way (add onions atop the chili, before the cheese); or even five-way (kidney or cannellini beans go over the onions, before the cheese).

“The Cincinnati Cheese Coney (as in Coney Island, home of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs), features a Vienna Beef Frank topped with chili, cheddar cheese, diced onions, and a squiggle of yellow ballpark mustard.”

So, here’s your Cincinnati Chili.

Imagine it atop a hotdog. Or “five-way” –

Thick spaghetti, topped with chili, topped with onions, topped with kidney beans (white or red)…

…topped with cheese.

Now, I made two mistakes here, and I apologize in advance to you Cincinnati five-way purists. The onions should have been yellow, not red; and the cheese orange, not white. Oh heck, maybe the beans should have been red rather than white, too… I’ll just have to visit Cincinnati sometime to find out for sure.

Those faux-pas aside – boy, did this taste great on a cold February evening! As did the meatloaf sandwich, rewarmed for lunch the next day. Enjoy –

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Oven-Grilled Meatloaf Sandwich for a Crowd.

Print just the recipe.

Please read, make, and review our recipe for Cincinnati Chili.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. C&J_mom

    Love the Oven Grilled Meatlof Sandwhich! Will make again when all the boys are home from college. And yes, the beans for the chili are red beans and the cheese is cheddar. I always use Extra Sharp to get the most flavor. Although I live in Cincy, I’m always looking for a good Cincinnati Chili recipe to try. Plan on making on making this next week. Thanks for 2 great recipes!! :)

    Reply
  2. flourchild

    From a Cincinnati girl…

    Beans should be red kidney
    Onion should be yellow
    Cheese should be orange (mild cheddar)

    Yup, I knew that – too lazy/frugal to go to the store so used what I had in my pantry, then added a “mea culpa” at the end. Thanks for reinforcing the message for our readers! PJH

    Reply
  3. waikikirie

    First read this at 8:30 this morning and wanted in for breakfast!!! With just me and the DH couldn’t dare just make it for us. Luckly I had a meatload in the freezer so guess what’s for dinner….Can’t wait to try all the recipes (when companies coming)….Actually, I have done the blitz bread (without the ww and as foccia. Delish!!!)

    Reply
  4. simpkinsv

    Cleanup on the bacon is even easier if you use a large sheet of aluminum foil over the pan and up the sides to catch all the bacon grease. :-)

    Great idea, thanks for the tip!-Jon

    Reply
  5. argentyne

    why did you have to start with that stupid song?! It won’t get out of my head now. And I totally blame you. :)

    As for the recipes, I actually never look at other meatloaf recipes because mine is just perfect for me.

    However, I absolutely adore meatloaf sandwiches and I make extra meatloaf SPECIFICALLY so that I can have meatloaf sandwiches.

    It’s probably a good thing that I’m not grocery shopping this week. If I was, I know what would be for dinner, and lunch, and dinner, and lunch….and dinner, and lunch. ;)

    I promise you’ll have forgotten hat darned song by the time you wake up tomorrow! But not the meatloaf sandwiches… :) PJH

    Reply
  6. Ginny

    Another big Cincinnati favorite is Montgomery Inn ribs. Their sauce is to-die-for good! It is now available in the supermarket. I add a couple of tablespoons of this to my meatloaf. It give a nice sweet barbecue flavor and keeps the meatloaf moist.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That sounds like an easy and very successful trick to really take your meatloaf to the next level…thanks for sharing! Happy Cooking! Jocelyn@KAF

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