I can stir-fry vegetables to the much (over) vaunted crisp-tenderness. I can stuff a shell with the best of them. Lamb and black bean chili is in a sultry simmer on my stove even as I type. But, last week, I wanted to step back from food fetishism for a night. No consulting the bookshelf, Saveur, or even Bon Appetit. I wanted to make a cozy meal that was redolent of home and perhaps even a different century: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas. You probably have a favorite meatloaf recipe of your own: I favor one that uses a mixture of beef and pork, some Lipton onion soup mix (it's not the same without it), ketchup, chopped onions, some garlic powder, eggs, breadcrumbs, Tasbasco, aleppo, and salt and pepper. After I form it into a ring--yes, I said ring--I slather it with ketchup or barbecue sauce.
Why a ring? Because I want more crust. Don't you? Doesn't everyone? Now, every piece is an end. No fighting. (My grandmother once bought two chickens so that my cousins and I wouldn't fight over the coveted legs. There were eight of us, so everyone would get a drumstick, she said. She made great creamed onions, though.) The potatoes were ultra-rich, with lots of butter and light cream. I splashed some cream on the peas, too, just because I could. I wouldn't want to eat like this every night, but once in a while, during a bleak and weird winter, it's a short trip back to a happier time.