Amanda & Merrill

Oliver Clark's Meatloaf...Kind Of

January  5, 2010

- Merrill

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to cook simpler food more often. This was great news for my fiancé, who is a real meat and potatoes guy. (To be fair, he'll also happily eat pretty much any vegetable you put in front of him.) My first attempt at going back to the basics involved making a shepherd's pie (my first ever) for Christmas Eve. That went over well, so next I decided to try my hand at meatloaf. I really enjoy a good meatloaf, and of course I'd made it before, but not for many years. Knowing that my fiancé's mother's meatloaf is pretty much his favorite meal in the world made me more than a little nervous, so just to be safe, I turned to a recipe written up by Jonathan Reynolds in an article about his friend, the actor (and excellent home cook) Oliver Clark.

Shop the Story

It is only on rare occasions that I'm able to stick to a recipe, and this was not one of those occasions. I didn't have the portobellos and green peppers that Oliver Clark's original recipe calls for, nor did I have any Cajun seasoning, onion powder, whipped cream cheese or bacon on hand. And I had bought the "meatloaf mix" at Fairway, which included veal, beef and pork instead of just beef and pork. Not one to be deterred by such trifling details, I forged ahead, skipping the veggies and bacon altogether, substituting dried thyme, dried basil and a pinch of cayenne for the Cajun seasoning, and using creme fraiche in place of the whipped cream cheese. I also ramped up the garlic a little.

The resulting meatloaf was certainly the most tender and juicy of its kind that I have ever produced, and I was assured that it almost -- but not quite -- lived up to my future mother-in-law's famous version. The sweet caramelized garlic and onion perfume the entire meatloaf, and the combination of the three different meats makes for a really nice, nuanced flavor. If you too are looking to simplify your time in the kitchen in 2010, this meatloaf could be a way to start!

* Note: the second time I made this recipe, I used the whipped cream cheese. I think the texture was better with the creme fraiche, but I'll leave it up to you to choose.

Oliver Clark's Meatloaf

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • ½ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup, plus more for glazing
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraiche (or whipped cream cheese)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has begun to soften and lightly caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until both the onion and garlic are soft and golden brown (be careful not to burn the garlic), about another 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except for the eggs. Add a few good pinches of salt. Then, as Jonathan Reynolds recommends, "paw at it with two forks, combining thoroughly but not overmixing." Gently stir in the eggs and the browned onions and garlic, mixing just until combined.

3. Gently shape the mixture into a rough football and nestle it into snugly into a loaf pan, patting it down so the top is fairly flat. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes, brush the top lightly with ketchup and return to the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes. The meatloaf is done when the internal temperature reaches about 145 degrees. Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Midge
  • GoodFoodie
  • nonnie
  • Georgiafrasch
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


AntoniaJames January 15, 2010
Made this tonight for Mr. T and it was, without question, the best meatloaf I've ever made . . . . and since it's Mr. T's favorite comfort food, I've made a lot of them! I substituted marjoram for the thyme and basil -- I adore marjoram and always have used it in my meatloaf -- and used coarse ground mustard with some bite to it. I didn't have dry breadcrumbs, but the fresh ones I made from my homemade buttermilk oatmeal bread, spun on through the mouli-grater, worked just fine. I also added a touch of horseradish and a pinch of allspice (my favorite spice) just for fun. To die for! I'm totally hooked on this recipe. And looking forward to leftovers for lunch this weekend!
Midge January 14, 2010
Definitely the largest meatloaf I've ever made! But DElish and the sandwich the next day, even better.
GoodFoodie January 13, 2010
I too had trouble finding the PRINT option on this page. Usually it is easy to find. Sorry I still don't see it......
Merrill S. January 13, 2010
We currently don't have a button for printing recipes within blog articles, but we will soon!
AntoniaJames January 13, 2010
The easiest workaround in the meantime would be for the editors just to include a link from the blog page to the recipe (its page in the recipe area of the site), where it could be printed from the right side bar button, as any other . . . . involving just one extra click. You all are doing an amazing job with the limited resources available!!
Food52 E. January 14, 2010
Thanks, Antonia. And that's a great solution -- the only glitch is that we don't always get the recipes into the database right away! (But that's our issue, not one for the developer.)
Merrill S. January 14, 2010
Oops! Forgot I was still signed in as Melanie to upload photos -- the above comment was actually mine.
nonnie January 11, 2010
I love your recipes, but it sure would be helpful if you made it possible to print just the recipe w/ a printer- friendly link. Thanks so much.
Merrill S. January 11, 2010
Thanks! Have you tried the "Print" link on the right side of the recipe page for this recipe? If you search for "Oliver Clark's Meatloaf," you should be able to find it. Let me know!
phyllis January 12, 2010
I think it would be more user-friendly to include a print button near to the recipe in the article. I want fast and easy and don't want to read a recipe and then have to search for it to print it. Thanks!!
Merrill S. January 12, 2010
Very good point! We'll get right on it.
phyllis January 12, 2010
Thanks!!! You should also have your web development team refine the search--when I search for chicken, I really don't want to see every recipe that contains chicken broth, etc. It's a tagging issue throughout the site (sorry, I'm a technical person and a cook).
Merrill S. January 13, 2010
We'll definitely add that to the list. While we'd love to be able to make constant, immediate changes so that the site can be more user-friendly, we're somewhat limited by manpower (we have one part-time developer who's up to his ears). But please keep the feedback coming!
phyllis January 15, 2010
I certainly understand the personpower issue and will continue to send in feedback. I enjoy the site and would love to see it as user-friendly as possible.
GoodFoodie January 11, 2010
As for the loaf pan versus baking sheet debate, I just go for what cooks fastest - which is the baking sheet method!
Georgiafrasch January 10, 2010
Your story is tooo funny. I am a, somewhat, accomplished cook and every fabulous and savory meatloaf I have made for my husband has been met with benevolent disapproval. It seems that his favorite dish is also his mother's meatloaf. I finally called up my Mother in law to discover her secret. Simply stated it is: beef, white bread, ketchup and one egg! Egads! I wasn't sure if my mandoline would up and leave me for such betrayal but once made, hubby was happy and I had salad for dinner.
I will live vicariously through your wonderful recipe - thanks!
Merrill S. January 13, 2010
So funny. I suspect that version would go over pretty well in this house too.
BronxGirl January 10, 2010
I don't get the fuss about the pan or the free form loaf. I actually do the happy compromise: I stuff the meat into the loaf (or any shaped pan) and then unmold it onto a rimmed baking sheet. This keeps the slices uniform and allows for a deeper and richer crust over a larger surface than a pan alone would allow. And for me, the loaf is about the crust. This also permits the meat to actually roast rather than steam in it's liquid. For a fun and festive 50s take, do the meatloaf in a ring pan. Like a meaty cake. Kids love it and it works well for a buffet.
mleconge January 9, 2010
I have always made meatloaf in a loaf pan, but in the past year or so, have read & been told that cooking it in a loaf pan doesn't make it "real" meatloaf and that it doesn't cook the way it would on a cookie sheet or in larger dish (but still loaf-shaped). The benefit of not using a loaf pan seems to be that there is more of a crust and that it cooks better. Frankly, I love the loaf pans, but wonder if anyone have any thoughts on this?
mrslarkin January 6, 2010
Merrill, I noticed you like to use creme fraiche. Do you buy it or make your own? If latter, got a recipe?
Merrill S. January 7, 2010
How on earth did you notice?? :) Amanda and I both think creme fraiche has a million good uses. My mother makes her own, and I've done it with her before, but I usually buy the stuff from Ronnybrook Farm (a local New York dairy), which is fantastic. I should make my own more often, though -- another New Year's resolution!
mrslarkin January 7, 2010
Ha! Well, I didn't think it'd be polite to say "Holy smokes! Are you addicted to the stuff or what?" Okay Merrill's mom, would you share your recipe with us, pretty please?
Alison D. January 5, 2010
Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious. I didn't add a thing and took nothing away. I have never had any meatloaf like it. Even my kids, 14 and 10, were loving it! The combination of the ketchup, mustard and mayo really created an amazing rich taste. Not one of those ingredients were overpowering. Thank you for making Tuesday night dinner great one!
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
I'm so glad to hear it. It has been wonderfully consistent for me too -- and isn't that what we all want in a meatloaf recipe?
Oui, C. January 5, 2010
I haven't thought of making a meatloaf for years, and this one sounds delicious. Thanks for pulling the green peppers from the original recipe, but I may have to lay a few slices of bacon on top for good measure.
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
I don't think anyone would fault you for that!
mrslarkin January 5, 2010
Yum! I love your old cookbooks in the background. Q: Does panko work in meatloaf?
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
I think it should. I used very fine, dry breadcrumbs, and they had no problem absorbing all of the moisture and plumping up, so I don't see why panko should be any different.
AntoniaJames January 6, 2010
I use wheat germ, too, but then I have one of those meatloaf pan sets with a top insert with holes in it, which let the fat and other liquids run off, so dealing with the excess liquid is never an issue . . . . I used a clay pot recently for meatloaf and was struck by how rich the meatlof was, cooked that way. The nice thing about wheat germ is that it's so handy. It imparts a subtle nutty flavor to the loaf, too.
TeriDavisNewman January 10, 2010
I use panko breadcrumbs all the time in meatloaf and I also use oatmeal which is excellent in meatloaf. I agree with using a combination of meats but I like beef, pork and LAMB in my loaf which everyone LOVES!
Merrill S. January 13, 2010
Your lamb addition sounds divine.
AntoniaJames January 5, 2010
What a great idea to share a meatloaf recipe! We love meatloaf here, so it's in my starting rotation, especially when the boys are home. I usually serve it with roasted potatoes and roasted carrots, similar to Tad's. Your recipe is almost exactly like mine, though I've never used creme fraiche before. I also use marjoram . . . lots of it. The ketchup is key. Definitely will try the creme fraiche next time. By the way, does your fiance have ANY idea what a lucky guy he is?!!
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
Think I'm the lucky one! Will try adding some marjoram next time.
Kelsey B. January 5, 2010
"my fiance" - it has a nice sound to it! Will the food52 shop be your registry? I have a meat & potato guy, too. Lately we've been hooked on Canal House Pommes Anna with our meat, in fact, I bet that would be a great side with this yummy meatloaf.
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
Yum! Sounds like a great match. And stay tuned for registry and other wedding stuff...I may need all of your help!
pierino January 5, 2010
Does that mean our engagement is broken?
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
dymnyno January 5, 2010
I love meatloaf...mine tends to be "the whole kitchen sink" type. I don't think that I have made the same one twice intentionally (maybe I mean accidentally).
Merrill S. January 6, 2010
It would be great if you'd write one of them down sometime! Would love to have an example.
Aliwaks January 5, 2010
I love meatloaf..especially cold meatloaf sandwiches on wheat bread with ketchup..preferably eaten standing in the kitchen after midnight. the last one I made was similar to this, but tried some thing new I coated it with shredded parm which gave it a nice crunchy crust . I tend to cook them on a sheet pan rather than in a loaf pan so I get 360 degree crust,

I like the idea of caramelizing the onions first, def going to try.
Merrill S. January 5, 2010
I'll have to try your parmesan crust and baking sheet methods!
Adele January 10, 2010
The crust is my favourite part - I LOVE the idea of cooking it on a sheet pan rather than loaf... ingenious !!!
sweet E. January 5, 2010
finally, another meatloaf recipe! Can't wait to try it, and I hope you will try mine --- though I'm not sure it will pass the fiance test.
Merrill S. January 5, 2010
I will definitely try yours! The mushroom gravy sounds fantastic.
AntoniaJames January 6, 2010
Saw a reference in a film recently to a mushroom gravy with meatloaf and made a mental note to find a recipe for same. Can't wait to try yours, Sweet Enough! And I use worcestershire sauce, too. Always have, always will.