Leftover meatloaf for sandwiches: some like it hot (but I like it cold)

J. H. Osborne • Oct 8, 2018 at 9:42 AM

I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a a child. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve always liked to eat. Taking after my father and paternal grandmother, I’m not afraid to try new things and have sometimes exotic tastes. But most of my go-to recipes for home-cooking lean toward comfort foods (often influenced by my mother’s cravings or finicky appetite).

Every three or four weeks, she’ll say, “It’s time for a meatloaf.”

A few years ago, through my addiction to reading cookbooks and a trial-and-error period, I developed my own special meatloaf recipe. It’s become my most requested “please bring” item for gatherings. More than one satisfied eater has commented it tastes like a cheeseburger (even when I haven’t included any cheese). Wherever I take it, I usually come home with an empty pan. But when it’s just Mom and me, meatloaf can linger a few days. Even though she mainly likes it just-out-of-the-oven hot (and a small portion at that), she doesn’t like for me to make a small (8 by 8 inch or so) meatloaf. She says if you’re going to the effort to make a meatloaf, you might as well make a “full-sized” run (a 9 by 13 inch pan).

I don’t argue much about that because, while I enjoy good, hot meatloaf with a couple of sides for lunch or dinner, I much prefer leftover meatloaf. For sandwiches.

And that’s where I’ve recently learned I can instantly start a heated debate with friends and family. Hot or cold? I can’t believe it’s even a serious question. A meatloaf sandwich, of course, is made with cold meatloaf, straight outta the fridge. On white “loaf bread.” (As an adult looking back, I realize the incongruity of a bag of sliced bread being called “loaf bread’). With a healthy schmear of Duke’s. And that’s the perfect meatloaf sandwich.

But I’ve learned some people, even members of my own family, slice the cold meatloaf and FRY it before making a sandwich. And they use all sorts of condiments and trimmings. And don’t even care what kind of bread they use. My unscientific survey has concluded these same folks fry SPAM. I like my SPAM chilled. I eat it just out of the can at room temperature. But I can’t do fried. A coworker once exclaimed “You eat RAW SPAM?!”

To each his own, I suppose. How do you like your leftover meatloaf? What about SPAM?

When asked for my meatloaf recipe, I try to share. Really I do, But, unfortunately, I was raised by “eyeball it” cooks. So it’s hard to explain exactly how to make it. And I guess that’s why sometimes it doesn’t turn out quite up to par. But I can offer a few tips:

• I use ground beef and for meatloaf “lean ain’t keen.” I’ve learned never to use meat that’s less than 20 percent lean (I typically buy a 2.25 lb. package of 80/20 ground beef).

• I enjoy meatloaf made with rice or oatmeal as the binding agent, but my special recipe uses store-bought fine bread crumbs (non-flavored).

• If I have any “secret ingredients” they are: dill relish (Mt. Ida’s is my choice and do not drain); molasses (Grandma’s brand, mild); and half-and-half. At least these are the three things that raise the most eyebrows and side-eyes when I tell someone what goes in it. I do sometimes incorporate shredded sharp cheddar, usually at Mom’s request.

• One must mix meatloaf with one’s hands. Do not attempt to use a utensil. Just dig in there.

• Onions and green peppers should be chopped and sauteed. But I have found an easy shortcut: buy them frozen, thaw and drain.

• I think one reason people like my meatloaf is because it is sweet, especially the glaze: brown sugar, ketchup and a smidgen of prepared mustard.

• Cover the meatloaf when baking. Drain excess fat before serving and especially before refrigerating your leftovers. (Of course, if you’re going to fry it, I guess that grease could be an advantage.)