Meatloaf is a perfect food. It’s like a giant meatball, shaped like bread. I mean, on a yumminess scale from overcooked-brussel-sprout to 10, meatloaf is a 10. It’s packed full of flavor from the herbs and veggies, and stays moist and delicious in the oven. It’s firm enough for clean slices, and removal from the loaf pan, but keeps a light and tender middle – pretty much the holy grail of meatloaf textures. The caramelized onions make a good thing even better, and seriously take things up a notch. No ketchup necessary. This recipe is my favorite meatloaf! It’s a great way to sneak some veggies in to your diet, and is a serious wallet-friendly, crowd pleaser.
For years, I have been trying to replicate my grandmother’s meatloaf. She must have been some sort of meatloaf magician, because I have never been able to do it! I have fond memories of her delivering humongous batches of meatloaf to our house on a pretty frequent schedule. Probably 5 or more pounds of it at a time. That giant meatloaf was always devoured so quickly! My sister and I would cut giant hunks off of it after school and eat ourselves into a meat coma. It’s actually really amazing how much an 80 pound teenager can eat. Ah, the joys of childhood.
In my many, many attempts to re-create nana’s meatloaf, I have pieced together my own version. The one I’ve shared here is a combination of all of my favorite things from the different batches I’ve made over the years. Ovi insisted that I record this one, because it’s the best one yet. I’ll go ahead and take his complement and put it in my pocket. He grew up with awesome grandma-made meatloaf too, so he knows what he’s talking about. We’re meatloaf connoisseurs in this family.
It’s not quite grandma’s (really close though!), but my family loves it just the same. I took a few cues from the master herself and loaded this recipe with veggies. The veggies lighten the whole thing right up, and keep things happy and moist in the oven (even through re-heating!)
I got the idea to top this meatloaf with caramelized onions from a cookbook shaped like a soup can. It’s a very silly little book. They of course, want you to buy their brand of French onion soup to use. The directions were to scoop out the stewed onions with a slotted spoon and top the meatloaf with them before it goes in the oven.
I used some left over homemade French Onion Soup. I like to freeze it in small 1/4 cup batches when I have leftovers, just so I can add it to this meatloaf later! You could also use one of those red and white cans of French Onion Soup, and freeze the leftovers for a later date. I won’t tell a soul. Pinky swear.
The best option of course, is fresh caramelized onions! They take some time to make (about 45 minutes for a fantastic batch) but are so very worth it. If you want to do this thing right, I mean REALLY DO THIS THING, fresh is best. culinary rock star status awaits you. I like to make a humongous batch out of 2 pounds of onions, and freeze them in an ice cube tray. Those little cubes of onion-y lovin’ add so much to simple weeknight meals. Of course, a different one than your usual ice cube tray. Onion scented ice water is a no-go.
Herbed Turkey Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions
- 1.5 pounds lean ground turkey (I prefer 97% lean)
- 1 egg
- 6 slices bread, toasted hard in the oven (I used leftover sourdough that was stashed in the freezer this time, and it was great!)
- Alternatively, use 3 slices toasted bread and 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1/4 cup caramelized onions or onions acquired from some onion soup
- Cooking spray
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
- 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Splash of dry white wine or vermouth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
- 1/2 brown onion (diced)
- 3-4 stalks celery, leafy bits included (diced)
- 2-4 cloves garlic (to your taste. I always go 4 because I love garlic!)
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps the onions to brown)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Begin by caramelizing onions, should you choose to use fresh. This step will take about 45 minutes on it’s own, but is so very worth the time commitment if you can manage it. Step by step directions for the caramelized onions here
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
- Arrange sliced bread on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. The goal is to get them completely hard toasted, and dry.
- While bread is toasting, heat oil in a saute pan and add chopped celery, onion and carrot mixture. Saute until onions are translucent and carrots take on some color – about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.
- Stir in Worcestershire sauce and vermouth/white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to released any browned bits. Scrape veggie mixture into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool
- Arrange half of the toasted bread in shallow dish in a single layer, breaking into pieces if necessary. Pour the warm milk over the bread. Allow this to sit for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through. The bread should absorb most of the milk and begin to crumble apart.
- Add second half of toasted bread to a food processor and process into a fine bread crumb. This should yield about 3/4 cup
- Using your hands, scooped the milk soaked bread out of it’s dish and crumble over the veggie mixture, reserving milk. Don’t squeeze out the milk from the bread.
- Add turkey and remaining ingredients (excluding onions) to the mixing bowl and mix to combine. Be gentle here. We want to thoroughly mix things, but not over work the meat. Over working it will result in a dense meatloaf.
- Thoroughly grease a loaf pan and form meat mixture into a loaf shape inside, creating a dip in the middle
- Spoon onions into the middle of the loaf and spread evenly across the surface.
- Bake at 350 F for 1.5 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees F. Baste with a bit of reserved milk half way through cooking time.
Look at that beauty. I love slicing into a meatloaf and seeing all of the goodies in the middle. I’m always disappointed when I’m served a meatloaf that’s all meat. Where’s the fun in that?
Use the leftovers to make toasted meatloaf sandwiches! How delicious. Extra Dijon for me, please.