Tantalizing Meatloaf Must Be Kneaded, Slapped Into Shape

A good meatloaf can make a fine food friend during this busy holiday season. You can bake it ahead and reheat servings. Also, it's great for sandwiches, on rye bread, with plenty of mayonnaise and lettuce. This recipe for Polly's Meat Loaf is from "Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken," by Ronni Lundy, a cookbook collection from Southern country kitchens.

The meatloaf Polly Judd Rideout makes is so delicious and well known in Ashland, Ky., that when her daughter, country singer Naomi Judd, was growing up there she could take sandwiches to school and trade for anything the other kids had in their lunch sacks, Lundy wrote.

POLLY'S MEATLOAF 12 servings 2 pounds lean or extra lean ground beef

1/2 pound breakfast sausage

1 egg

1 package saltines, crushed (40 single crackers)

2 medium onions, chopped

1 green pepper, minced

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup ketchup, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1. Because the proper way to mix this meat loaf is to squoosh it thoroughly with your hands, and that means getting your hands thoroughly covered in meat loaf, you'll want to get everything set up to toss in before you start.

2. Get out a shallow baking pan, about 9 inches by 12 inches. Put the meats and egg in a large bowl. Crush the crackers finely. Polly puts them in a plastic bag and rolls them with a rolling pin. Chop onions. Mince green pepper a bit finer than the onions. Pour Worcestershire sauce into a measuring cup. Pour 1/2 cup ketchup into a measuring cup. (You'll use the other 1/4 cup later.) Now you're ready.

3. Sprinkle pepper and salt over the meat and start squeezing and kneading it to mix well. When the sausage is pretty well distributed through the beef, sprinkle the saltines on and squeeze and knead them until well mixed. Dump onions and green peppers over this and mix and knead so they're not all in a clump, then add ketchup and Worcestershire and go to it with both hands again.

4. Polly says to mix and mix until the mixture has the same texture and ingredients throughout. You'll want to knead it several times to make it stick together good and firmly. Then slap it into the pan and shape it into an oblong loaf. Pat it and slap it into shape, firming it as you do.

5. When you've slapped to satisfaction and the loaf is firm and proud, put it into a preheated 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. Pull it out and slather the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup down its crest. Put it back and bake for 45 minutes more. Let cool just a bit before slicing.

Weekend Eats appears the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.