One of my goals in Life is to become a Very Cool Grandmother. Because Grandmas, in general, are awesome. I have memories as a child going over to Grandma Mary’s house and immediately heading for the large, stand-up freezer in her entryway...where I knew there was a Lifetime Supply of ice-cream sandwiches. And at Grandma’s house, you were allowed to eat whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted.
At my Grandma Evelyn’s house, every Sunday morning was filled with fluffy homemade biscuits, thick, incredibly rich gravy and piles of bacon that crumbled in your mouth with a satisfyingly resounding crunch. Better still, everyone at the breakfast table knew my love of bacon and graciously offered me any of the extra slices at the end of the meal. Ah, it was a budding food-loving child’s heaven. My mother has already informed me that when I finally make her a grandmother, and she says this with a loud sigh, rolling her eyes and exasperation in her voice, she is going to completely spoil my children. Great, so while I'm trying to get my kids to eat fresh figs, artichokes and steamed kale, she's going to be giving them slurpees from the local Dairy Queen. Grandmothers, she figures, have earned the right. Touché, mom, touché.
LB’s grandmother, Mimi, is Italian. Mimi has what I, as someone who has not yet made the trek across the pond to Italy, might consider as having Quintessential Italian Characteristics (or at least characteristics that I might imagine an Italian grandmother having). Namely, when you walk into her house you are immediately offered food: crispy bacon (my favorite), scrambled eggs, panettone, eggplant Parmesan, pancetta, fresh cheese...the list goes on and on.
I love visiting Mimi. This Christmas, we had Mimi show us how to cook some of her favorite recipes so that we could learn them and so that they would be passed on in the family. It was a day filled with laughter and love: our hands dug deep into bowls of flour, we sprinkled breadcrumbs, ate marinated olives, cured meats and mozzarella, we imbibed glasses of Italian wine (for it was surely noon somewhere in the world), and by the end of the day, our bellies were filled with lots of good, home-cooked Italian food.
We let Mimi decide the recipes she would like to pass on – LB had told her he would like to make something that might be lost if she didn’t pass it on herself. She decided to share one of her favorite recipes, Eggplant Parmesan, and one that her father had taught her and would make whenever company came over: "Company Meatloaf." To be honest, at first I was slightly disappointed at the thought of making meat loaf (the original decision was to make homemade gnocci). And, as I’ve professed here before, meatloaf is not one of my favorite dishes to eat. In fact, it’s difficult for me to get all the way down to my stomach sometimes. And even more difficult for me to keep it down there. But, we were grateful that she was taking us in to show us a family recipe, and being the newbie in the family, there was NO WAY I was going to say one word about not liking meatloaf.
My own biases aside, the meatloaf got rave reviews from the table. And for meatloaf, it was definitely the best meatloaf I’ve had – not that I’ve had much, nor do I intend on having much in the future. But I ate every bite (of course I did - you don't mess with Italian grandmothers!) and the proscuitto and mozzarella make for a tender, moist and delicious combination. For those of you that DO enjoy a meatloaf on occasion, you should certainly try it like this. Just the act of making it is a pure joy, especially when you’re making it alongside a little Italian grandmother.
First, whip up a batch of your favorite meatloaf (if you're into that sorf of thing). Try Nicole's - because it's actually a meatloaf that I would most definitely eat (yes, even me) and that I'd consider making again (although I haven't...I have to face the truth, meatloaf is just not one of my favorite dishes). Mimi makes hers with 1 lb of ground beef and 1/2 lb of ground pork for moisture.
Dump out your pile of meatloaf mix onto some wax paper and pat it out into the shape of a rectangle until it is very thin - about 1/2 inch thin. Then, layer paper thin slices of proscuitto on top.
Follow that with a hefty sprinkling of mozzarella cheese - finely shredded or grated. Don't buy the previously shredded stuff, because you're going to need slices of it for the top too...
Roll it up like you would a jelly roll, starting at one end, until you have a roll o' meat, as opposed to your usual loaf o' meat. Put it on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and layer thin slices of mozzarella across the top of the roll (Mimi cuts them into rectangles or squares, then halved them diagonally to make pretty little cheese triangles). Put it back in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the meat is done in the center, but the ends aren't yet dry, and the cheese has melted and gotten bubbly (you'll have to keep an eye it and determine the times that are best for your oven ...Mimi has this down pat for her own oven, but better safe than sorry). Sorry there's no finished picture - meatloaf just isn't the most photogenic of foods, and besides, I was busy eating Eggplant Parmesan (oh yeah, and meatloaf too).
So there you have it - meatloaf fit even for company. Meatloaf that can bring together little Italian grandmothers and non-meatloaf eaters alike, and make them both happy. Besides, the way I figure it, every Cool Grandma should know how to make at least one good meatloaf...just in case someone that loves meatloaf happens to come over.