Long ago, in one of my many culinary adventures… I managed a hospital kitchen. Our big Wake County hospital had several satellite little community hospitals, and one was in Zebulon. I really didn’t know what I was doing when I applied for the job… a transfer in the system. I had taken a “temp” job with WakeMed and that “temp” turned into 5 years as Admin. Asst. to all the ER docs… all the ER nursing staff and also, the trauma center was born while I was there, so THAT got dumped on me too… I kept screaming “this is a 2-3 person job” And after I got the job to manage the kitchen in Zebulon, they split it into 2 persons.
Let me just say that working in the county’s emergency room was “something.” I saw some of everything and then some. I wished I’d have kept notes to write some sort of “The Crazy Shit You See In The County Emergency Room” because it would be a doozie!
ok… so to meatloaf!
When I got to the kitchen in Zebulon, there were 3 of the kindest older ladies to show me the way. On day one, I learned about the pureed diet when one of them had blended up some chicken… fried chicken. A blob of it had been spooned into a little white plastic container that fit into our serving trays. So I asked Frances “WHAT IS THAT?” Because it looked like cat vomit. Frances explained to me that she had pureed some fried chicken for a patient on dysphasia diet. I surely hope I never get to that stage… but… instead of just serving patients there canned processed pureed foods and baby food, we pureed actual real food we cooked… so it would be tasty and they would eat, since that’s a big problem with elderly and folks in rehab, which was the majority of our patients.
We cooked great food there! Even the head honchos in food service up at “Big Wake” would ask me… “what are you doing out there because our patients who have been there always want to be transferred there because of your food!” We used a LOT of Ms. Dash since most docs put everybody on “low sodium.” Which kept most of them from eating much. I told my family that when I get that old, if I want same salt on my food, somebody had better bring me some damn salt! The restrictions were often silly when these folks had little time left… all they wanted was some salt on their food, but we couldn’t give it to them.
Each day, we hung the lunch and supper menu on a board outside the kitchen where staff who wanted to eat could put their name. The list was always longest on 2 days… fried chicken, and meatloaf.
There in the kitchen was a scratched up old tin recipe box. Tucked inside of it were mostly hand-written recipes they had cooked for years. The cards had ragged edges, and food stains that made their mark as the cards were pulled out on cooking days and got drips and dribbles on them. The meatloaf card was no exception, although after there a while, I didn’t need the card. It was etched in my mind.
This may be the best meatloaf I’ve ever eat. Our staff and patients loved it too. I should have shared it long ago… and I apologize for the terrible picture! I forget to take good ones when I make it… cause I’m ready to dig in. I made this one above, or what’s left of it, in my toaster oven, where I do most of my roasting/baking. It does look rather greasy, and it is. Because I prefer 70/30 blend for this and most all my ground beef cooking. It’s the fat folks! That makes this meatloaf so moist, tender and juicy. The oil can be easily dabbed out with paper towels… or poured off.
So here it is. My “Hospital Meatloaf” recipe. I have no idea where this recipe originally came from. I worked there in late 80’s/early 90’s and it had been there years before I arrived. It’s just plain and simple good meatloaf. Make it and let me know what you think!
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Wendy's "Hospital Meatloaf!"
- 1 ½ lbs. ground beef (I prefer 70/30 for moistness but use your own preferred)
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I usually use Panko but any will do)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ cup tomato sauce (I just use ketchup)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup tomato sauce (I use ketchup)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- Preheat oven to 325. (I make all the time in my toaster oven.)
- Combine all meatloaf ingredients together until well blended together. Mix gently, and remember, the more you "work" the meat, the chewier and tougher it will be.
- Put into baking pan and shape into loaf. **I make a 'well" in the middle where I can fill with sauce and leave edges around the top "exposed" to get that nice crunchy meatloaf top.
- Pour sauce into "well" and over all of the loaf edges.
- Bake about 1 hour until done.
- I reserve a little of the sauce to pour over when I take out of the oven... or pass so folks can spoon over their chunks of meatloaf.
- I NEVER EVER cook meatloaf in a loaf pan! If you do, you just won't get the nice little "crunch" on top like you will the way I cook. Just make by hand in baking dish/tray and shape as noted with sauce in "well."
- Happy Meatloaf'n!