Fun with Leftovers: A Philly Meatloaf Grinder 

There are times when I’m home alone and just don’t want to make myself a meatloaf sandwich or a bowl of ramen. So I get creative. Here is what I started with.

  • leftover meatloaf (my wife usually makes a good one)
  • sliced provolone
  • a small red bell pepper
  • part of a sweet onion (does not have to be sweet)
  • a clove of garlic
  • some sort of rolls (French, hard, soft, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • seasoning (I used salt, pepper and a dash of Italian seasoning blend)
  • wine (optional, does not go into the food this time)

Heat up a skillet while you clean and cut up the pepper. How big or small the pieces are is a matter of personal preference. Add some olive oil to the warm skillet. When the oil gets hot enough (hint: after it becomes thin but before it starts to smoke or bursts into flames), toss in your pepper pieces and season to taste. Stir or toss the peppers occasionally while you cut your onion and slice or mince your garlic. Again, let personal preference prevail.

Just as the peppers begin to soften up, add the onion and garlic. If you didn’t add enough seasoning when you started the peppers, you may add a little more now. Be careful to regulate your heat so that the onion doesn’t brown too quickly, nor does the garlic scorch. If you burn the garlic, you’ll be sorry.

While the pepper and onion are cooking down a bit, cut up your leftover meatloaf. Note that I could have done this exact same thing with leftover steak, roast beef (not in gravy), chicken, Italian sausage, etc. Any of the things I just mentioned would go fine with the pepper and onion mixture.

How big or small do you cut the meat? How did you cut the pepper? How did you cut the onion? As long as you like it, there is no right or wrong answer. This isn’t even a recipe, really. Did you see me measure anything for you? Me, neither.

Add the meat to the other stuff in the skillet. Let me caution you now about seasoning the mix every time you add something. Can you? Sure, as long as you add very little each time. Me, I can pretty much feel my way through this aspect, but when in doubt, taste it.

Now depending on what just went into the skillet, you will either heat it up a little, brown it, or whatever. If you’re using leftovers (see the title of this blog post), whatever meat you used was already fully cooked. Don’t ruin it. For meatloaf, I like to heat things u until the edges of the loaf pieces brown a little. That’s personal preference.

While the skillet mixture finishes, prepare your bread. Go ahead, talk to it if you like. On this go-around, I used prepackaged French rolls, which tend to be on the soft side. I don’t much care for soft bread, but I was making grinders—aka oven/broiler roasted subs—so I knew my soft rolls would come out toasted, nice and crisp on the outside, while still chewy on the inside. If you start with a hard roll or a very crusty baguette, your gums might not enjoy the experience when you bite into the result. Don’t ask me how I know this. Select a pan or tray that will support the sandwich(es) in the oven or under a broiler.

Distribute the mixture from the skillet onto your roll(s). In my opinion, if the bread soaks up a little bit of the now-seasoned olive oil, you will have committed no injustice. Just imagine the underside of tha roll, warm and crispy, yet releasing a bit of that seasoned oil for you when you bite into it. You’re welcome.

Heads up! The cheese is what makes your sandwich an oven grinder. i used provolone, which browns nicely and imparts a fair amount of flavor. Other cheeses work well, too, depending on what’s under it. Seek balance. Imagine pepper jack on chicken, mozzarella on meatballs drenched in tomato sauce. Get the idea? If you think/feel your way through this process, you won’t need a recipe. And that’s good, because I’m not giving you one.

Into the oven and/or under the broiler. The purpose here is twofold: toast the bread and melt/brown that cheese layer. A word of caution: Don’t open the oven/broiler door every ten seconds or you’ll be there forever. But by the same token, don’t ever just walk away from it, either. When working beneath a direct flame or heating element, things can change very quickly. Stay close. In between peaks in, use your nose to gauge the progress. But always be ready to stop the process—kill the heat source, yank the pan/tray out, whatever—when perfection has been attained.

In all candor it took me longer to write this blog post than it took to create my Philly meatloaf oven grinder. When your sandwich comes out, it will be too hot to eat. Don’t ask me how I know that, either. So let it cool , but don’t let the darned thing get too cold either. You worked too hard for this. Enjoy!

I do enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I actually put some in the food. This wasn’t one of those times. One of these days I will publish a book filled with things like what I just shared with you. The working title of this book is What Recipe and in all likelihood, it will not contain one conventional recipe. Some readers will become upset about that. Others, in time, will “get it” and grow exponentially from the experience. But first I gotta’ write the book. Ha!

Thanks for hanging with me.


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