I’ve always liked Jann Arden – even more so since meeting her in person last summer to do a grilling segment for CBC radio – but a recent conversation we had about food made me love her even more. She’s not just good humour and an awesome set of pipes – she knows how to enjoy a good meal. “Food is one of the greatest things about being a human being,” she told me.
As we chatted on the phone, Jann was sipping a kale-ginger-spinach-mint-apple-cucumber something or other, appreciative of the fact that eating properly is important. But she also appreciates eating well, and open-mindedly; she believes in trying new things, even if it’s, as she put it, pickled jellied lamb heart, or a cockle. (“Try a damn cockle!” Love her.) Perhaps Jann’s gastro-inquisitiveness was part of the reason she was asked to be a celebrity guest judge on last season’s Top Chef Canada, an experience that required her to down two five-course meals within a 5-hour period. (A task she was up for.)
As a kid, Jann was (not happily) one of the CrockPot generation – with two working parents, dinner was put in the slow cooker before work and school, and at 6pm most evenings would emerge the same colour as the previous night’s meal. “The colour was indescribable,” she reminisced. They’d always have plenty of potatoes or rice to make it go down easier.
Those who lived in Calgary a decade or so ago may remember the Arden Diner on 17th Ave, a small, cozy diner Jann owned with her younger brother, Patrick. Their Mom’s meatloaf was one of the most popular menu items – it’s something she made really well, and Jann continues to make, although now she uses lean turkey in place of the beef. I asked if she’d consider opening another restaurant – “never say never,” she replied, although she seems satisfied with just taking in the constant stream of new restaurants popping up in YYC. “Calgary has a ferocious restaurant scene,” she says, “comparable with cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.”
Besides, she loves to cook at home, when she has the chance – on the road 225 days a year, when she’s back home in Springbank, where she lives on 14 acres, she cooks for family and friends, and bakes for whomever comes to visit. And yes, she makes meatloaf.
Of course, the best reason to make meatloaf is for the leftovers – this recipe produces two meaty loaves, so you don’t have to worry about holding back on dinner – #1 can be served with mashed potatoes while #2 lies in wait in the fridge for the next day’s lunch.
To make grilled meatloaf sandwiches, place a thin slice of Havarti or aged cheddar on a piece of bread, top with a slice of meatloaf, another slice of Havarti and another slice of bread, and cook in a generous drizzle of olive oil in a hot pan (or in a preheated panini grill) until the cheese is melted and the bread is crisp. Seriously – it’s two comfort foods in one.
Jann Arden’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Adapted from a recipe previously published in Chatelaine.
2.5 kg lean ground beef or ground turkey (or a combination)
4 large eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup HP sauce or bottled barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. Montreal steak spice
1/2 cup oatmeal
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients together and pack tightly into 2 loaf pans lined with parchment paper. Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 425F and cook for another 20-25 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before slicing and serving. Makes 2 meatloaves.
Garlic Mashed (just what you’d expect)
Yukon gold potatoes
Lots of garlic (I might roast the garlic next time)
Lots of butter
My great aunt Edith’s potato masher and some elbow grease