Meet the new love of our lives:
His name is Behemoth, and he’s just shy of a year old. We adopted him from a local shelter in November. It didn’t take long for him to wrap both Sam and me around his glossy black paw. He’s sweet-natured, outgoing, and lovable as hell.
I’d walked into the shelter expecting to adopt an older cat, so bringing home a teenager was an adjustment. As far as young cats go, this guy’s pretty easygoing–he loves being around people and tends to take things in stride. But in many ways, he’s still a kitten. He has no chill. When he’s not fast asleep, he’s constantly on the move, sniffing this and climbing that and chewing on most anything within reach. And he is desperately curious about human food.
Whenever we sit down for a meal, Behemoth is there, lurking on the windowsill or the sideboard, waiting for his chance to sneak onto the table and steal a taste. There’s a curio shelf in one corner of the dining room, and he likes to climb up there and stare piercingly at us while we eat, like a fuzzy gargoyle:
He’s also just brazen enough to wait until our backs are turned. So far, we’ve caught him swiping bites of deviled eggs, cheesecake, and chow mein. And the other night, when I made meatloaf, he was falling all over himself to try and get a morsel. Not that I blame him–it was delicious, and looked not entirely unlike cat food. How could we blame him?
Behemoth did not get his share of meatloaf. We, however, inhaled it. I love my meatloaf as moist as possible, and this recipe delivers in spades. I used a combination of ultra-lean ground bison for bulk, and fatty pork sausage for richness and seasoning. Then I scooped in the last of a tub of quark–a fermented ricotta-like cheese–that we had in the fridge. The cheese melts right into the meat, making a loaf that’s oh-so-plush and juicy. Ricotta would do the job just as well, and I’ve written the recipe to reflect this.
A note on glaze: I keep seeing recipe posts and videos making snide comments about ketchup-glazed meatloaf. I don’t know who decided this was uncool–it’s probably my favorite part of a classic meatloaf. I included a simple ketchup-mustard-brown sugar glaze in this recipe, which you can tweak to your liking. And if you prefer an un-glazed loaf, feel free to skip the glaze. This meatloaf is plenty flavorful without it.
Bison, Sausage, and Ricotta Meatloaf (serves 6)
1 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
1 large celery stalk, coarsely grated
1 tsp coarse or kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 lb ground bison or lean ground beef
1/2 lb (about 8 oz) Italian sausage (sweet or hot), or other raw sausage
1 cup (8 oz) full-fat ricotta cheese or quark (farmer’s cheese)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs OR 1/2 cup storebought (dried) breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
For the glaze (optional):
2 tbsp ketchup, or to taste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
In a large skillet, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg thoroughly. If using sausage links, peel off the casings. Add the cooled onion mixture, ground bison, sausage meat, ricotta cheese or quark, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the meatloaf mix firm up.
Preheat the oven to 325º F, and position a rack in the middle. Grease a 9×13 baking dish, or any deep-sided baking dish that will fit the loaf with room to spare. Transfer the meat mixture to the center of the baking dish.
Lightly moisten your hands with cold water and use them to shape the meat mixture into a loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s cooked through (at least 160º F internal temperature).
Optional step: While the meatloaf bakes, whisk together ketchup, mustard, sugar, and hot sauce in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the proportion of ingredients to your liking. After 15 minutes of baking, remove the meatloaf from the oven and spoon or brush the glaze all over. Return the meatloaf to the oven for the rest of the baking time.
Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
Leftovers: Wrap cooled leftover slices of meatloaf tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap, then store in a zip-top bag. Stored this way, the meatloaf will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months, though it will become a bit squishy when thawed.