Tailgating Part 2: The King of American Sandwiches


Tailgating Part 2

The Perfect Tailgating Meal Is… a Sandwich!

Get Your Sandwich On! Adam Alosi of Randazzo's Pastry Shop in New Jersey proudly carts out the 6 foot monster sub. Tim Ferrell, The Star Ledger.

If you look through my posts here on Rusty Chefs, you’ll see that I have an almost unnatural affinity for sandwiches, so when Tailgating came around, there was simply no choice but to create the perfect party sandwich.  They are perfect tailgating fare because you can still make the touchdown victory signal with your arms and bust out your funky moves, all while clutching your meal firmly in your grasp. And when my team scores, the last thing I need is to be is balancing a plate, a knife, and a fork; you’ll just hurt yourself.

And before you start screaming about “where’s the grilling?!” I stand by the belief that anytime you gather your buddies around a TV and a game, you’ve got Tailgating. And “Baby It’s Cold Outside!”

Because I started my tailgating adventure with a retro themed California Onion Dip,  I thought long and hard about classic sandwiches that define our American culture, because Tailgating is unquestionably a uniquely American pastime. I briefly considered the Club Sandwich as the all-American classic, but it has lost some its American identity as it has become synonymous with every single hotel’s room service menu around the world… and it’s a pain in the ass to make for a party. Then came a bolt of lightning from the Gods, and I understood what the true definition of an American sandwich is…

The Meatloaf Sandwich!

Meatloaf is as American as apple pie. Though the Europeans have been chopping meat and adding spices as far back as the 5th Century Romans, it wasn’t until the invention of the modern meat grinder that meatloaf as we know it today became common. It was a saving grace during the Great Depression as it allowed Americans to stretch their dollar as butchers ground their normally tough scraps of meat into a tender mix for a budget price.

Unfortunately, meatloaf’s origins as a budget meal has given it a bad rap over the years. I think the bad rap comes from hopelessly crappy school lunch versions of meatloaf, because when I make a meatloaf, this meal sings! Meatloaf is a rich and flavorful meal when made with a little care, and the leftover sandwiches are the stuff of legends.

Meatloaf Recipe… Football Day Minus One

Let me start with all the ingredients you need for a perfect and flavorful meatloaf.

  • 1 lb ground beef, at least 85% fat
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 1 lb ground veal
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 slices of white bread
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt (like Lawry’s)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb thin cut bacon

The Meat

At one time, “meatloaf mix” (1/3 ground beef, 1/3 ground pork, and 1/3 ground veal) was a staple in every supermarket around the country, but it has all but disappeared from today’s meat aisle. This has a lot to do with people’s ethical concerns about eating veal, which has no basis in modern day veal production where several manufacturers (such as Strauss) have become completely humane and cruelty free. Seek them out.

Also, modern pork farming techniques now produces pork meat that is so lean that it is unsuitable for a moist meatloaf, so use a mild Italian sausage with its ideal fat to meat ratio.

Now I’m going to give you the secret to tender and juicy meatloaf and meatballs. That’s right, remember this technique when you make meatballs and your friends and family will come groveling at your door.

Ditch the bread crumbs.

That’s right, if you have a can of bread crumbs in your pantry, throw it away right now – it’s useless. All they will bring you is dry meat, heartache, and a cross-eyed look from your dog.

Instead, cut the crusts from the slices of white bread and tear them into small pieces about 1/2″ each. Add the milk and mix up to soak the bread and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the meatloaf mix.

Combine the beef, sausage and veal in a large mixing bowl. Process the onions and garlic in a food processor by pulsing so that it retains some texture, or mince finely by hand.

Squeeze the moisture from the bread/milk mix and add it to the meat mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and mix gently by hand until everything is incorporated.

You will notice from the ingredient list my final secret weapon to perfect, succulent meatloaf. Fish sauce. That’s right, fish sauce! If you don’t tell your friends, they’ll never know what hit them, only that your meatloaf has a depth of flavor that they’ve never experienced before… and believe me, it don’t taste fishy at all. In fact, that Worcestershire sauce you so love has the same base (anchovies) that fish sauce does.

Allow the mix to refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours so the flavors blend together.

The Only Meatloaf Glaze You’ll Ever Need

  • 3/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 3/4 Cup Chili Sauce (like Heinz)
  • 1/3 Cup brown sugar
  • Hot sauce to taste (like Tabasco or my fav Cholula)

Combine the ingredients with a whisk and refrigerate for a few hours to blend flavors (do this while your meatloaf mix sits)

Cooking This Baby

Remove the meatloaf mixture and turn it out onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Shape it by hand into a nice loaf shape. Drape the loaf with the thin slices of bacon side by side and put it into a pre-heated 350° oven. After 10 minutes, brush the meatloaf with 1/3 of the glaze mixture and return to the oven.

Cook for about 45 minutes and brush the meatloaf with another 1/3 of the glaze and return to the oven. Cook for another 15 to 30 until the meatloaf reaches 160° internal temperature. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, for God’s sake go get one! It’s the best $10 you’ll ever spend.

Remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. If sandwiches are all you want, refrigerate overnight. The next day… this is what you get!


Meatloaf Sandwiches… Hot or Cold?

Ahh, the Great Debate. Just for kicks, I conducted a random survey with co-workers asking them hot or cold? It was an almost even split, so I guess I’ll have to give you ideas for both:

Animal-Style Meatloaf Melt (Hot)

For the hot version of a meatloaf sandwich, I ripped a page from In-n-Out’s secret menu and decided to make an “animal-style” meatloaf patty melt. As the slab o’ meatloaf heated up in the frying pan, I slathered one side with yellow mustard before flipping and grilling.

This is a great technique that gives the meatloaf a sumptuous tang that compliments the spices in the meat.

In the spirit of curiosity, I tried a technique that many claim to make a superior grilled cheese: spread the rye bread slices with mayonnaise instead of butter.   I’m sorry… They are wrong.

I went back to the tried and true… and it’s the only way to go. White bread, buttered on the outside, American cheese, a light smear of mayonnaise on the meatloaf. I kept the “animal style” mustard grilling technique. Now the bread toasts to that golden rich color characteristic of a perfect grilled cheese and everything came together as it should in a right and just world.

Rusty Chef Scot’s Meatloaf Melt Rating: 2 1/2 Bread Knives

The Perfect Cold Meatloaf Sandwich

  1. The Bread. No is no choice here, meatloaf sandwiches are one of the few sandwiches in the world that require American white bread. The soft, pillow like texture serves only to hold everything together and adds no distracting flavor.
  2. Condiments – mayonnaise is a natural on this sandwich, as is American yellow mustard rendered with a restrained hand. The glaze on the meatloaf already has ketchup, no need to add more.
  3. Cheese is a must, and there are no hard and fast rules for it. Personally, I am an advocate of a good-quality American cheese that is not processed cheese food (like Boar’s Head sliced fresh from your deli, not the plastic-wrapped singles), as it gives me a creamy texture that works particularly well with the spices of the meatloaf. But have no fear if you want to amp up the flavor with a nice Vermont or New York State cheddar, or even a Swiss if that’s to your liking.
  4. Produce. Sour pickles are optional. Lettuce and tomato just don’t belong at this meat & cheese party.

This is more like it! While the hot meatloaf sandwich felt like the bastard step-child of a burger, the cold version hit all the right notes in flavor and texture. This is the hands down winner of meatloaf sandwiches for me.

Rusty Chef Scot’s Cold Meatloaf Sandwich Rating: 3 Man of Steel Knives

three knife rating

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