Many, many years ago, my mother put a plate full of meatloaf in front of an 8 year old me. I turned my nose up at it and scowled "I don't like meatloaf." My mother, not missing a beat, responded, "Good. More for me." Eventually, I did eat it and determined I was wrong. Meatloaf was pretty good after all.
This, however, is not your ordinary meatloaf. There is not a tomato sauce or ketchup in sight. I do believe, however, at one point the original recipe was meant to be made with a can of condensed tomato soup. You see, this dish has now been prepared by at least three generations in my family. My mother (an only child) got the recipe from her mother, who had to cook for a picky eater. Who knows if my great-grandmother before her made something similar. I believe my grandmother altered the recipe to call for a can of cream of celery soup instead of tomato.
This meatloaf has converted many a meatloaf hater, including my husband who turned an interesting shade of pale when I told him shortly after we were married what was for dinner. Once it was served, however, he told me I could make this for him any time I liked, and he now brags about it to his friends. He still isn't crazy about celery, though, so I try to pick most of it off his plate before it goes to the table.
No one has ever written this recipe down. We have learned how to make it by watching those who have come before us. Therefore, no one makes it truly the same way. Where I use panko or Italian seasoned bread crumbs, my mother uses crushed saltines. It was my job to take a little pastry roller and a zip lock bag to crush 8 saltine crackers into a fine powder. Twenty years in to making this for my family the way I like, I'm now unsure of the seasonings used before me, but I prefer to keep it fairly simple. The celery salt is a nod to my mother who uses it in many of her signature dishes.
If you choose to double this, stick with just one can of soup and 1 cup of milk. There will still be plenty of gravy.
Meatloaf with Creamy Celery "Gravy"
1 pound low fat ground beef
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, celery salt, and pepper. Form mixture into a loaf or large patty.
In a 3 quart casserole dish, mix together milk and condensed soup. Place meat in casserole dish and spoon some of the soup mixture over the top of the meat.
Cover and bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The soup mixture may start to bubble over. If that happens, angle lid on casserole dish or remove completely.
Cut meatloaf into one inch slices and serve with "gravy" over top.