If you’re talking about the singer: a Harley, the smell of burning rubber, the open road, and the icy grip of a passenger holding on to your waist for dear life.
If you’re talking about the food...it’s a little more complicated.
A good meatloaf should be completely delicious in itself, but you can’t just tuck into platefuls of meat; it’s not healthy.
So, what accompaniments can you prepare for your meatloaf? It’s a fantastic question because the answers are myriad, each as tasty as the last.
Meat and veg is the oldest combination in the book. In fact, whenever you’re slow-roasting meat, you should always dress the tray with onions, carrots, and celery - otherwise known as mirepoix - before finally adding, oiling, and seasoning the meat.
The beauty of vegetables is the numerous ways in which they can be cooked and the vastly different outcomes it has on their flavor and texture.
My absolute favorite way to cook veg is to roast it in a little bit of oil seasoned with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and a light sprinkling of sage, rosemary, and oregano (and Thyme if it’s venison or poultry meatloaf).
If you want to boost the sweetness factor, you can even add a scooch of honey or syrup to the oil. More adventurous still, you could try a Dijon mustard glazing. I’m getting hungry just writing about it.
Top Tip - Use an oil with a fairly transparent flavor so the true flavors of the vegetables can really pop. Oils with strong flavors such as olive oil won’t ruin the veg by any count, but it will mask their flavor a little.
If you’ve already got plenty of strong flavors, be it from sauces, dressings, or exciting ingredients in the meatloaf, boiling or steaming your veg offers lighter flavors and more control over textures.
Some al dente tender stem broccoli will provide a lush textural contrast to the meatloaf.
So, what vegetables in particular should you choose? Well, the good news is that most common vegetables will go with any kind of meatloaf.
The crisp, earth-sweet essences of the veg compliment the rich and savory meat. Carrots are a favorite, as is broccoli, cauliflower, suede mashed with lots of butter and ground white pepper, peas, cabbage, green beans…the list is nearly endless.
Mashed with plenty of butter, salt and pepper, cauliflower is suitable for any kind of meatloaf. You can even lightly spice it for some brilliantly complex flavor pairings.
Why not try a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon? If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, a sprinkle of cumin and turmeric may be precisely what you’re looking for.
Yes, I know potatoes are a vegetable, but due to their versatility and the fact they’re a brilliant match for pretty much any meat, they deserve their own dedicated section.
A rich, creamy mash salted to perfection, with a hint of ground white pepper is never out of place on a plate, but it goes wonderfully well with beef, lamb or pork meatloaves.
The mash and the meat should practically dissolve into one another as you taste it, ending in a truly mouthwatering masterpiece of savory flavors.
Mash is also incredibly filling and cheap to make, so if you’re on a budget, it's a great way to fill a few bellies and then some.
Once again, roast potatoes are a personal favorite of mine. Lightly salted, boiled just enough to give them a fluffy edge, then cooked on a medium-high heat in the oven for around an hour to an hour and a half, and voila! The perfect addition to any kind of meatloaf dish.
Their golden, crunchy exterior and fluffy interior make for an awesome juxtaposition with the texture of the meatloaf. Any meat dinner can be made better with these delicious little things.
Top Tip - After you’ve oiled and seasoned your fluffy boiled potatoes in the baking tray, add a light sprinkle of plain flour over their surface to aid the crisping process.
Boiled potatoes have the most subtle flavor of all because they’re cooked without any additional ingredients. They provide a muted counterpoint to an already robust plate of flavors.
Top Tip - Once boiled, put them in a bowl, melt in a little bit of butter, add a sprinkle of salt and freshly chopped parsley, a drizzle of lemon juice, stir, then prepare yourself for a taste sensation.
Fries or Wedges
You can’t go wrong with some thick-cut fries or wedges when it comes to meatloaf.
They’re simple, they’re delicious, they’re easy to make, and blend well with almost any flavor.
Sweet Potato Fries, Wedges, or Mash
Not as versatile as normal potatoes, Sweet potatoes are still a big hit with meatloaf spreads.
They cook much faster than normal potatoes, so if you’re in a time-sensitive situation, sweet potatoes could save the day.
Dinner rolls are the perfect stomach filler and gravy soaker-upper.
Garlic bread is the perfect side for a beef meatloaf and tomato-based sauce. Think of it like a Bolognese.
The combination of bread butter and garlic is pure magic. Dip it in the sharp tomato sauce, add a sliver of beef, and you’ve got something really special.
Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms
This is going to go a treat with poultry meatloaves.
Cooked with a bit of salted butter and cream, topped with breadcrumbs and diced bacon, you’ll be sending your tastebuds to heaven.
This is a classic. Save the juices from whatever meat you’ve cooked, add in any water used to boil vegetables, then thicken with brown gravy granules or powder.
You’ll never want to eat meatloaf without it again.
Red Wine Jus
Red wine jus is perfect for a beef meatloaf. It’s basically a very rich, sweet, slightly fruity gravy.
If you feel like your loaf is a little bland, this is the perfect accompaniment to recoup some flavor.
Leek and Cider Sauce
This will go particularly well with pork, lamb or poultry meatloaves.
It’s a sweet and creamy sauce that, if done right, should burst with fruity flavor from the cider, then leave a savory aftertaste thanks to the leeks.
Drizzle it generously over some meatloaf to liven up its muted flavor profile.
White Wine and Mustard Sauce
Here’s another lovely sauce that will go magnificently with pork, lamb, or poultry meatloaf.
The gentle hint of mustard blends beautifully with almost any herbs, and the delicate flavor of the wine lifts the whole meal and keeps it interesting.
Tomato and Basil Sauce
This is perfect for all those classic beef meatloaves.
The acidity of the tomatoes muted by perhaps a pinch of sugar or drizzle of lemon juice really lets the savory flavors of the beef sing.
The key to finding the perfect accompaniment to your meatloaf is to think really hard about the meat and the herbs, spices, and seasonings used to flavor it.
Then all you have to do is use what I call your brain tongue to decide what flavors are complimentary.
A good place to start if you’re not really used to flavor contrasting and matching is to just think of what you’re hungry for, picture it on a plate with the meatloaf, then imagine eating a forkful of both. How does that work in your head?
Was it quirky but genius? Was it a textbook flavor combo? Was it a little disjointed and strange in terms of flavor or texture?
Fortunately, there are so many awesome pairings for meatloaf, you’re sure to find something perfect for the job. Bon appetite!