Meaty Mainstays

Kirk Douglas’ Favorite Meatloaf

February 5, 2020

Before there was Michael Douglas, there was Kirk Douglas, Michael’s 1940s matinee-idol father.  If it weren’t for Ant Man, in which Michael had a nice role, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which my son Noah considers “epic” for its special effects (first sci-fi shot in Cinemascope), my boys as kids would have been unfamiliar with either of these actors. But back in the ’60s, Kirk was very much top of his game, starring in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and alongside John Wayne in three films, making Kirk much sought after by celebrity columnists. Which is where this meatloaf comes in.

Reader Bill Hensge wrote looking for a Kirk Douglas meatloaf recipe he thought he read in an in-flight magazine 25 years ago, could I please find it? Some digging later, I’d narrowed the hunt down to two airlines  and had permission from United  to make a visit. Through a massive metal door, I entered the climate-controlled vault under the Elk Grove building where they store the archives for their in-flight magazine Mainliner. There, with the requisite white gloves on, I found that in the ’70s, Mainliner started a several-year series of cooking-based celebrity interviews, including the one Hensge sought: Kirk Douglas’ favorite meatloaf.

A recipe created by Douglas’ German cook Fifi, the light-colored and mildly-flavored loaf includes ground beef, veal and pork and a bacon-topper. Douglas liked his meatloaf with nutmeg-seasoned mashed potatoes on the side.  My family likes it with mashed, too.  But I think the loaf is good served room temperature or chilled, on a charcuterie board with lots of pickles, onions and mustard.

If you find the loaf too plain, add chopped cooked chilis to the mix, and, or, bake it with a slathering of spiced tomato catsup under the bacon. To make the loaf look pretty and unmold easily, I like to use a pullman-loaf baking pan–a bit longer and taller than a typical bread pan, lined with parchment paper. I layer the three slices of bacon over the parchment at the bottom of the pan, then fill to the top with the loaf mixture. Once baked, use the edges of the paper to lift the loaf from the pan and invert over a cutting board or platter to slice and serve.

Note: I loved chatting with public radio’s Monica Eng about finding vintage recipes for her podcast with Louisa Chu. You can listen to the segment here–the recipe chat starts at the 18 minute mark: “Chewing the Fat.” And, in case you’d like to check them out, here are more of the stories/recipes featured in the Chewing podcast: Franklin Park PTA BBQ Day Sloppy JoesThe Original Chocolate Fudge Brownie from the Palmer House, Evan Moses Chocolate Malted Frosty Ice Cream, Chicken Consomme with Marrow DumplingsOrange DipsMile-High Strawberry Pie, Dressel’s Chocolate Fudge Whipped Cream Cakecaramel pecan sticky buns

Kirk Douglas’ Favorite Meatloaf
Serves 8
A recipe created by Kirk Douglas’ German cook Fifi, this light-colored, mildly-flavored meatloaf includes ground beef, veal and pork and a bacon-topper. Eat it the traditional way, with mashed potatoes, make sandwiches of it, or slice and serve it on a charcuterie board, with pickles onion and mustard.
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  1. 1 lb, each, of ground beef, veal and pork
  2. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  3. 3 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
  4. 2 eggs, whole
  5. 2 Tbsp. flour
  6. 2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
  7. 1 ½ tsp. salt
  8. 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  9. ¼ tsp. paprika
  10. ¼ tsp. dried oregano, or, 1 tsp. fresh, minced
  11. ¼ tsp. dried thyme, or, 1 tsp. fresh, minced
  12. 5.5 oz. V-8 juice
  13. 3 strips bacon
  1. Combine all ingredients except bacon in large bowl. Mix well. Place meatloaf in ungreased loaf pan, pressing down so that there are no air pockets. Place three strips of bacon on top. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Alternate method: Line a Pullman-loaf baking pan with parchment paper. Layer the three strips of bacon in the bottom of the pan, over the parchment. Fill with meatloaf mixture.Bake as directed.
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