Growing up in my mom's kitchen, I learned to make a decent meatloaf: ground chuck, ground sausage, finely minced onion, celery, carrots, and green peppers, along with an egg and homemade bread crumbs, baked in a large mound in the center of a rimmed baking sheet with an inch of water poured around the sides to keep it moist. It was the taste I'd grown up on, the "Mom's Meatloaf" I preferred. When I married Gene I was introduced to his bachelor version of meatloaf: ground beef and Lipton dry onion soup mix formed into a patty and baked dry in a loaf pan.
Marriage, and life, is about compromise. There are honestly things I like about both versions so over the last 20 years we've learned to make a very tasty meatloaf by combining the best parts of the two recipes. It's all about taste and texture. The beef base in the onion soup mix enhances the flavor of Gene's recipe but the texture is that of a big burger. That's great for folks like Gene who could live every day on burgers but for me the texture is an issue. I prefer the softer, but not mushy, texture of my mother's meatloaf although I can't really find a good reason to do the water thing. It simply makes the sides too mushy. I grew up thinking that the egg, bread crumbs, and veggies were about stretching the loaf to feed our five kid family, and it was up to a point, but those things also soften the texture. Too much and you've got mushy bad restaurant-style meatloaf, but in the right quantities, those ingredients serve to enhance the texture difference between really good meatloaf vs. a burger.
This is our tweaked version that bridges the two recipes and it makes for a great meal and then wonderful leftover sandwiches for the two of us the next day.
Gene's Tweaked Bachelor Meatloaf
Recipe by Gene and Glenna Muse
1 lb lean ground chuck
8 oz mild sausage
1 envelope Knorr dry Spring Vegetable soup mix
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs or matzo cracker meal
Glaze from The New Best Recipe Cookbook from Cook's Illustrated
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar
Combine ingredients for glaze and set aside.
Combine all ingredients for the meatloaf (not for the glaze) and mix with hands.
Turn into loaf pan designed for meatloaf that has a rack on the bottom to allow for fat drainage into the bottom of the pan. Baste with glaze. Bake, covered with foil, for 40 minutes @ 350 degrees.
Remove from oven and spread glaze over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes uncovered or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cooking times might vary with the narrowness of the meatloaf pan. The thicker the meatloaf through the middle, the longer it will take.
Remove from oven and let "rest" for 10 minutes before slicing.