Since I began cooking every night about 12 years ago, I figure to have made approximately 399 meatloafs (NOT meatloaves) up until last night. I tried many recipes, and combinations of recipes. I made Italian Meatloaf, Mexican Meatloaf, Polish Meatloaf, Stuffed Meatloaf, Mini-Meatloafs, and even a pretty accurate version of my Mother's Meatloaf. While many were excellent, lots were great, and most were good, I was still trying for the consummate item.Last night I came pretty damn close! Giving credit for the platform for most of my experimental meatloaf ventures to the October 1996 Cooks Illustrated article on meatloaf, and FoodTV's Alton Brown for a key tip, (noted in the recipe), along with the old "luck of leftovers", here's what I did:Blend in a food proccessor:1 egg1 pack Liptons Onion-Mushroom Soup Mix1 small carrot (Alton Brown Tip)1 stalk celery "1/4 cup Campbells Condensed Golden Mushroom SoupAdd this to:1 lb regular ground beef1/2 lb lean ground pork1 cup fresh bread crumbssalt & pepper to taste (remember the soup mix and soup contain salt)Mix Carefully! This is important. I put all the ingredients in a large bowl and rapidly fold them together with a little plastic spatula I have. Now wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so. As with the mixing, Shape Carefully! The final texture of meatloaf contributes almost as much to the finished product as the flavorings. To me, a meatloaf must be free-standing, and have a firm enough structure to slice neatly. However, if you mix it too much, or shape it too tightly, it won't drain while cooking. This could result in it being too greasy. I sort of rough shape it in the plastic wrap, about twice as wide as it is tall, and roll the loaf out of the wrap onto a small shallow pan and pat it lightly into final form.Into a preheated 350 oven for an hour. After about 20 minutes, I brushed mine with a glaze made of 1/4 cup of the Golden Mushroom Soup and a little ketchup and worchester. I don't know why, but applying this glaze after 20 minutes of cooking seems to produce the nicest crust.Now LET IT REST for 15-20 minutes before serving. It was hard to convince m,yself of the need for this step, but like with any roast the meat needs time to absorb the juices.#400 was IT! Perfect taste/texture/crust. Your Perfect Meatloaf criteria may differ from mine, but this is meant to be more of a story than a recipe. (I almost posted it to the Gestalt Board; and still may write a more cerebral Post on the subject over there.) Tonite I'll make English Muffin Bread (great toast) and tomorrow, Meatloaf Sandwichs! If you never hear from me again, fear not, (or gloat not as the case may be), but I've died and gone to gastronomic heaven. SB
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