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Meat loaf becomes a pate when baked in a fancy dish

You probably won't get a chorus of oohs and aahs if you announce to the family you're going to serve meat loaf for tomorrow night's supper. This common dish is apt to inspire more yawns than spontaneous applause.

That's rather unfair. Pate and terrines - merely a meat loaf with a French name - are considered quite fashionable, even gourmet, and certainly never dull.

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Carol Cutler, chief American consultant to Time-Life Books for the ''Good Cook'' series, admits she's not sure where to draw the line between pate and meat loaf - or if there is a line at all.

''I'm still not sure if pate refers to the pastry crust in which it is often baked, or the pasty consistency of the meat loaf itself,'' she says.

But Mrs. Cutler does know that meat loaf has gotten a bad press in the United States. ''Maybe it's that it is so American, or that it has been around so long that we tend to look down our noses at it,'' she speculates.

She suggests a few simple additions that will give a fashionable flair to this humble American classic.

''Toss a handful of blanched pistachio nuts or pine nuts into the meat mixture, or layer some whole blanched string beans or blanched carrot strips in a loaf. Chopped pimentos or corn kernels also give wonderful color as well as flavor.''

Here are three recipes for various meat loafs. The first is reprinted with the permission of syndicated columnist Ann Landers. Over the years she has had more than 25,000 requests for it. The second is a basic meat loaf using three kinds of meat. The third is called a terrine because of the container in which it is usually cooked.

Remember, too, that meat loaf can be served cold as a picnic loaf, as a sandwich filling, or as an entree with a sauce of half Dijon mustard and half mayonnaise. Ann Landers's Meat Loaf 2 pounds ground round steak 2 eggs, beaten 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs 3/4 cup ketchup 1 teaspoon MSG 1/2 cup warm water 1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix 2 strips raw bacon, optional 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

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Mix thoroughly all ingredients except bacon and tomato sauce. Place in loaf pan and cover with bacon.

Pour tomato sauce over top and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Serves 6. Basic Meat Loaf 2 pounds ground lean beef, or 1 1/2 pounds beef and 1/2 pound ground pork or sausage. 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 teaspoon salt Ground black pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, thyme, or sage 2 eggs, beaten 4 slices white bread, finely crumbled 1 beef or chicken bouillon cube 1/2 cup hot water Butter or margarine 3 slices raw bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine beef, onion, salt, pepper, herbs, and beaten eggs in large mixing bowl. Dissolve bouillon cube in hot water; cool, and add with bread crumbs to meat mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Pack meat mixture into lightly greased loaf pan, or shape into a loaf and place on aluminum foil in a baking dish. Top with bacon and bake 1 hour. Serves 6. Lamb Terrine With Provencal Herbs 1/3 cup, plus one teaspoon olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 pounds lamb, ground 3/4 pound fatty pork, ground 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme 1 1/4 teaspoons rosemary 1 1/2 teaspoon sage 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper Large pinch cayenne pepper 1/2 cup bread crumbs 3 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup pitted black olives 1/3 pound salt pork 1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Saute onion in 1/3 cup of olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute another minute. Scrape into large mixing bowl.

Add lamb, pork, herbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix well. Add bread crumbs and eggs, and mix well. Add olives and mix carefully.

Cut saltpork into strips about 1/2 inch square and 6 inches long.

Oil an 8-cup mold and press 1/3 of meat mixture into it. Place half the strips of salt pork into meat. Repeat once and finish with a final layer of meat.

Spread remaining olive oil over top and place bay leaf in the center. Cover with aluminum foil, put lid in place, then poke a small hole in foil. Place mold in pan of hot water and bake 1 1/2 hours.

Let cool at room temperature, place a weight on top, and refrigerate overnight. Remove weight, cover well, and refrigerate 4 or 5 days before serving.

To serve, unmold and slice or slice and serve directly from mold.

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