While it took the rest of the country decades to bring all-American meat loaf out of the closet as a dish worthy of even the snazziest homes and restaurants, Southerners have always not only loved and respected the loaf but also debated every aspect of its preparation to the point of obsession. The various types of meat, the ingredients that yield the most flavor and moisture, the best fillers for binding, the mixing and baking techniques—no facet of meat loaf escapes intense scrutiny and challenge. There’s a lot that distinguishes Southern meat loaf from most other styles (the cardinal importance of bulk pork sausage, the use of bacon as a flavoring and moisturizing agent, free-form baking for even crustiness, etc.), but perhaps the most defining principle is that great meat loaf requires no gravy—that, in fact, it would be desecrated by gravy. My own recipe for the ultimate meat loaf seems to be slightly modified from year to year, but for the time being, this deluxe version should satisfy even the most finicky Reb.
In a medium skillet, melt
Place the meats in a large mixing bowl, add the sautéed vegetables, and mix lightly. Add the mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper, eggs, and breadcrumbs and mix with your hands till blended thoroughly. Shape the mixture into a firm, thick oval loaf, place in a shallow baking or gratin dish, drape bacon over the top, and
Shortly before the meat loaf is removed from the oven, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over moderate heat, add the reserved mushroom caps, and
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