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Editor’s note: Steve and Kathy Doocy’s new book, “The Simply Happy Cookbook,” is filled with 100-plus recipes to take the stress out of cooking. Nothing complicated, everything delicious. Here’s one of them — and it starts with a story from Steve himself.
We ate meatloaf at least once a week during my Wonder years.
I thought Mom made it because it was simply delicious, but actually she made it because we’d eat it and it was cheap.
At age six or seven, I remember asking Mom who showed her how to make it, and she said “Gunga,” which was how I pronounced “Grandma” when I was three. That nickname stuck for her entire life.
My grandma Sharp was 100% Swedish. Did you know that Sweden is famous not only for Volvos and IKEA but for meatloaves?
In Stockholm, they call them köttfärslimpa, which I would say out loud if I had any idea how to pronounce those special letters with the double-dots above them.
Now you see why I called her Gunga.
In the 1960s, Mom was very clever in the kitchen with the limited resources she had. In Russell, Kansas, nobody really had canned tomato products in the house, but we always had ketchup, so if something needed “a little red something,” Mom would squeeze in a squirt of Heinz.
She’d put a piece of bacon on the top — and when it was finally crunchy, the meatloaf was perfectly done.
She also had a technique so that she’d always know when the meatloaf was done. She’d put a piece of bacon on the top — and when it was finally crunchy, the meatloaf was seemingly always perfectly done.
That bacon was like the pop-up timer you might see on a roasted turkey.
This recipe has elements that we’ve collected over our lifetimes: the ketchup, Gunga’s ground meats and a blanket of bacon inspired by our friends at Masterbuilt, the smoker company, who showed us how to make a bacon weave, which they call a fatty — we call it fabulous.
The glaze that we added candies the bacon — and that blasts it off the charts!
This meatloaf may be made of memories, but it’s also the best meatloaf we’ve ever had — just saying.
Grandma’s Braided Bacon Meatloaf 2.0, from ‘The Simply Happy Cookbook’
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Cooking oil spray
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion, cut into medium dice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups ketchup
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons A.1. sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 four-ounce can diced green chiles, undrained
1 cup bread crumbs (we use panko)
2 pounds ground meatloaf mix (beef, veal and pork)
1 pound thin-sliced bacon (16 slices in the package)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist a 9 × 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and turning golden brown on the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool.
3. To make a glaze, in a small bowl, mix 1⁄2 cup of the ketchup, the brown sugar, and smoked paprika. Set the ketchup glaze aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup ketchup, the eggs, A.1. sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and stir well.
Add the diced green chiles, bread crumbs and cooled onion-garlic mixture and mix again.
Finally, add the ground meat mixture and combine until all the ingredients are well mixed. I go old-school and use my hands — but I go new-school by wearing a pair of disposable food prep gloves from our PPE stash. Form the meat mixture into a large meatball and leave it parked in the bowl.
5. Now for the creative part! Let’s make the bacon weave. If you’ve never built a bacon weave, it’s unbelievably easy; google “how to make a bacon weave” and you’ll find 122,000 videos in less than a second. (If you’d prefer written instructions, keep reading!) Just make the bacon weave on a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.
6. Pour the ketchup glaze in the middle of the bacon weave and quickly spread it almost to the edges. Shape the large meatball in the bowl into a traditional loaf about 11 inches long, then place the top of the loaf squarely in the middle of the bacon weave.
Pulling up the wax or parchment paper that’s under the bacon weave, cinch the bacon up to both long sides of the loaf. Once you’ve got a good handle on it, flip the whole setup upside down into the prepared baking pan, with the bacon weave on top.
“Let the meatloaf rest 10 minutes before serving, and don’t cut it until you take a picture; it’s the coolest looking meatloaf — ever.”
Remove the paper gently, and if any bacon slices got jostled out of place, carefully put them back into position. As needed, reshape the meat mixture underneath the bacon with your hands to make it look like a perfect loaf.
7. Bake the meatloaf, uncovered, until the interior temperature at the thickest part of the loaf reads 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 ½ hours. Cooking times will vary depending on how thick your loaf is.
8. Let the meatloaf rest 10 minutes before serving, and don’t cut it until you take a picture; it’s the coolest looking meatloaf — ever.
How to make a bacon weave
Set out a large, sturdy piece of wax or parchment paper and lay 8 bacon slices on the paper, side by side, horizontally.
Working on the left side of the slices, starting at the bottom, fold 1 slice to the right a few inches. Skip the piece above that, then fold the next, folding up every other piece. Grab a new slice of bacon from your stash and lay it vertically on the left side, from top to bottom.
Repeat the pattern until you have 8 rows and 8 columns of bacon, beautifully woven into a grid pattern.
Now, unfold all the bent pieces. That first piece of the weave is now done.
To add a second vertical slice, once again start at the bottom. This time you’re going to fold only the pieces you didn’t touch the first time. So skip that bottom piece and fold the one above it all the way to the left until it touches that first vertical piece.
Skip the next, fold the next, and repeat. Take another unused piece of bacon and place it vertically just to the right of the first piece, then unfold all the bent pieces.
See the pattern?
For the third row, fold the same pieces as you did on the first one—but they’ll all go to the left this time. Repeat the pattern until you have 8 rows and 8 columns of bacon, beautifully woven into a grid pattern.
If you still can’t visualize this weaving, don’t worry — watch a video online and it will make perfect sense!
I can make one now in about five minutes, and the end result is soooo worth it. Good luck!
Adapted from Steve & Kathy’s “The Simply Happy Cookbook.” To order your copy, click this link. Used with permission of William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. All rights reserved.