Food & Drink

Bailiff's magical meatloaf

Good cooks are everywhere, even in a jury room. In mid-February, I had the privilege of serving on a jury. The bailiff was a charming man named Roger Tag.

A retired teacher, Tag keeps active in the winter as a bailiff for the court system. In the summer, he and his wife head to Yellowstone National Park, where they work in the general store. Throughout the year, he often can be found in a deep, cool fishing hole looking for the flash of a tail or a shadow against an underwater stone. Whether it’s catch and release or take it home and fry it up, Tag is a happy man when he has a fishing pole in his hands.

When he was growing up, his mom did her cooking on a wood stove. Later, when Tag was a young teen, they moved to a house with a gas stove and his mother got a job. “It’s time for you to learn how to cook,” she told her sons. It was good training and to this day, he is the family cook.

On the first day of jury service, I went to lunch with one of the other jurors. On the way back in, Tag asked us about our lunch and told us he had a meatloaf sandwich. That’s when the story about his cooking came out. I asked for the meatloaf recipe and he was glad to share it. I made it for dinner one night and it really is delicious and completely different than anything I have tried before. I especially liked the tang of horseradish.

Karyn Lindberg has called Olympia home since 1988. She is passionate about cooking and entertaining. She believes good recipes are meant to be shared.

Roger's Meatloaf

Yield: Makes two loaves

2 pounds ground round steak or ground beef

1/4 cup horseradish

1/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons salt

1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cream or half and half

12 slices bacon

4 medium onions, chopped

2 cups soda crackers or bread crumbs

Beef base, such as Better Than Bouillon

To begin deliberations, find a big bowl. Add two pounds of ground round steak or extra lean ground beef. Add a quarter cup each of horseradish and ketchup, two teaspoons of salt and a half to a whole teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Tag’s recipe calls for a cup of cream but I used half and half. Check your cholesterol report and decide for yourself.

The next ingredient is 12 slices of bacon. I checked with Tag and he said he just grinds it up and adds it to the mix. I know it adds wonderful flavor and much of the fat will cook out and end up in the bottom of the pan. However, I decided to pre-cook the bacon until it was just turning brown and then drained it on paper towels. This rendered out at least a cup of bacon fat. By the way, the Niman Ranch apple smoked bacon at Trader Joe’s is outstanding. I figured the 10 thick-cut slices that come in the package are about equivalent to 12 thin slices. Whatever you decide about the bacon, raw or pre-cooked, add it to the meat mix along with four medium onions, chopped.

The recipe calls for two cups of broken up crackers. I used bread crumbs instead. However, I think crushing soda crackers would be a better choice as I think they would be more absorbent.

Mix everything together. This is one of those jobs that work best when you use your hands. Remove any rings and dig in.

This is enough mix to make two loaves or one big one.

Unless you have a big family, there will be enough for more than one meal. I made one big loaf and put it in a large oval baker. You can also make two loaves in standard bread pans.

Pat bread or cracker crumbs on top of the meatloaf.

Mix up a cup of beef stock using a good quality beef base like Better Than Bouillon. Pour it into the pan or divide between two loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half. It’s done when a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, it’s a small investment in safe cooking.

There is one more suggestion from Tag. “When it’s just about done, pour some good hearty lager beer into the pan.”

This meatloaf is so tender it’s actually hard to cut perfect slices. I just used a big spoon to scoop out any stray chunks. However, this tenderness means every bite just melts in your mouth.

Should you get called for jury duty, I hope your bailiff is Roger Tag. He makes the process more interesting and is the perfect gentleman as you pass into and out of the courtroom. Maybe that’s where the term courtly originated. If so, Tag exemplifies it perfectly.