Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mini Meatloaf

I know this is going to be really cheesy, but I make meatloaf in muffin tins. Rachael Ray suggested it, and I have to admit it's very practical. Not only does the meatloaf cook a whole lot faster, but it's easier to portion off and easy to freeze and thaw. Not to mention very kid-friendly.

Sometimes I get in a slump as far as creative food goes, but I think it's important to still make sure you're getting those standards down really well, too. Meatloaf is one of those, and I don't think I ever made it until I was well into my adult life. I probably had children before I made meatloaf. It's never seemed that exciting, probably because ground beef in general seems like one of the least exciting ingredients out there. But if you're looking for comfort food, this always fits the bill. Don't we all love to sit down at our mom's house and take a few bites of meatloaf? No? Well, she must have had the wrong recipe.

(By the way, those are mashed potatoes in the picture. Can you have meatloaf without mashed potatoes?)

Before I decided on meatloaf muffins, I tried the other two options: baking in a loaf pan and free form on a cookie sheet. I liked the free form better, honestly, because you get a browner crust and the glaze cooks up nicely, but I was willing to give these up in favor of the convenience of muffin tins. If you haven't tried it this way before, I recommend giving it a go, especially if you have small children around. Still, I recognize that there's a time and a place, and it may not be so elegant if company is coming. In such cases, I recommend baking the meatloaf on a sheet pan that has been covered in aluminum foil, baking it in a 350° oven for 1 hour, until a meat thermometer registers 165°.

It's very important when mixing a meatloaf together to mix it as little as possible. The more you knead the mixture, the denser the loaf will become. If you treat it gently, you'll have a very tender loaf, more delicate than you're used to. That doesn't mean it will fall apart; the eggs and bread crumbs should keep that from happening.

My husband's favorite reason to have meatloaf is so he can make a meatloaf sandwich for lunch the next day. He prefers it on white bread with mustard. Not very often, of course, but good when you get it.

(I need to interrupt myself here. My daughter, Emily, is 8 years old and loves to experiment in the kitchen. Apparently David, who is 3, has picked up the idea, because he just mixed together chicken, peanut butter, Craisins, salt, and fresh raspberries. I wonder if he'll eat it!)

Oh, my very favorite thing about having meatloaf was always my mom's glaze. Hers was sweet and ketchupy, almost like candy. I like that sweetness against the meat, but I've found through trial and error that I only like it in the glaze; leave the sugars out of the loaf for me. We like our glaze to have a good kick of vinegar in it, too, and cider vinegar seems to work best for that. Don't skimp on the glaze, either; that's like serving ice cream without the hot fudge sauce. Good luck!

makes about 18 muffin-size loaves

1 1/3 lb. lean ground beef (93% or thereabouts)
1 lb. ground pork
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 medium to medium-large onion, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 T. fresh thyme leaves (about 1 1/2 t. dried)
1/3 c. ketchup
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. *Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1 1/4 c. fresh white bread crumbs (about 2 slices, torn and thrown in the blender)
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

2/3 c. ketchup
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 T. cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the tomatoes, thyme, and another pinch or two of salt. Cook, stirring, 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked down and the mixture is fairly thick. Taste for salt. Cool for about 5 minutes, while you prepare your bread crumbs and throw everything else together.

In a large bowl, combine the two meats, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, eggs, milk, bread crumbs, six or seven turns of pepper, 2 t. salt, and the cooked tomato mixture. Using clean hands, gently knead the ingredients together just until thoroughly combined. If you'd like, at this point you can fry a bit of the mixture up in the sauté pan to test for salt, but if the tomato mixture was salted correctly you should be just about right.

Combine all the glaze ingredients.

Spray the muffin pans with non-stick coating, then fill each cup just to the top with meat. Using a spoon and half of the glaze, coat the tops of each of the loaves. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly coat with the remaining glaze. Turn the oven on to broil, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove, using a fork. Serve.

*Pronounced [worse - stir - sure]


Anonymous said...

Rachel's brother here...

I remember last year while visiting the folks I offered to make something. It turned out that there were going to be about 8 people for dinner, and I usually make for 2 so had no idea how much to make. Mom said they were big meatloaf eaters and to make alot, but didn't give any portion pointers. Nobody else was around to suggest portions, and the worst thing is to have too little I think... Well I made alot! I think there was 2lbs ground pork & 2lbs ground sirloin, few onions, few bell peppers, carrots, garlic, spices, eggs, panko, etc. Mixed in the biggest bowl she had and free form made it on a sheet pan. I called it "Metcalf Ridge"! Of course had some kind of sticky, sweet glaze and tasted great. The vegetables make the meatloaf moist, so you shouldn't skimp on those.

I rarely do meatloaf at home, but it's a nice dish even for 2. You can make it in oversized hamburger form and bake or fry it. (Japanese call it hamburger steak.) Serve it with curry sauce and rice is good too.

Heidi said...

Oh, yum!!!

Melony said...

I make these all the time the same the idea from Kraft Food and Family. It is the way to make meatloaf! Yours look so much better than mine though..LOL :)