Modern Meatloaf

Modern Meatloaf  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Modern Meatloaf | Image: Laura Messersmith

I love trying new restaurants and experiencing new flavor combinations, but sometimes you just want something really simple and down-home. Tangent alert: where does that phrase ‘down-home’ come from? What’s more straightforward and Better Homes & Gardens-esque than meatloaf? There’s a reason that people (including me) love meatloaf and I think it goes back to family dinner and wanting to channel that un-fussy, deliciousness “just like Mom used to make.”

That said, I also like to cook in a way that still trends healthy and incorporates great flavor. So, when I first saw this recipe in Cooking Light I was really excited to try a version of meatloaf that includes vegetables and is made with lean ground beef.

I started with the original, but then as I’ve made these mini-meatloaves over and over again I’ve adapted them to our taste and worked out what I think is the perfect balance of flavor, fat, and binding agent. I’m confident that these truly bring an American classic up to date with delicious results.

Extra bonus: you can easily reduce the recipe by half if you have a smaller group, or make the mixture ahead of time, keep it in the refrigerator, and bake the meatloaf just before you’re ready to serve. 

Modern Meatloaf    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Modern Meatloaf | Image: Laura Messersmith

Modern Mini-Meatloaf (yield: 12 meatloaves; serves: 6)

1 cup (1 medium) finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (1 medium) finely chopped carrot
1/4 cup (1 stalk) finely chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoon (2 cloves) garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup ketchup, divided
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (I like 90% or 93% lean)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups unseasoned panko bread flakes
Non-stick spray

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mince the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic finely. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Rub the dried oregano between your hands and add to the pan. Sauté for about 4 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Next, add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute.

Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup ketchup, the spicy brown mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper into the vegetables. Allow the mixture to cool. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and set aside.

Place the ground beef in a medium mixing bowl and add the sautéed vegetables and sauce to the bowl. Use a fork to mix the sauce into the ground beef until well mixed. Add the whisked eggs and continue to mix with the fork until well combined.

Finally, stir in the panko bread crumbs starting with 1 1/4 cups, if using 93% lean ground beef, and adding up to 1 1/2 cups if using 85% or 90% lean ground beef. In a separate small bowl stir together the remaining 1/2 cup ketchup with 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.

Lightly coat two muffin tins with non-stick spray. Divide the ground beef mixture into 12 equal portions and roll into balls (about the size of a racquetball) - don’t over pack the mixture. Gently press each portion into the muffin tins and spread each mini-meatloaf with 1 teaspoon of the ketchup Worcestershire mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned, or until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 160 degrees. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Adapted and re-written from Cooking Light.

Modern Meatloaf      | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Modern Meatloaf | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes. I used a medium non-stick sauté pan, two muffin tins, one medium mixing bowl, and one small bowl. I also used a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, and a fork.

The Verdict:
This is one of our favorite comfort food meals – perfect with a little mashed potato and roasted Brussels sprouts or green peas. The flavor of the meatloaf is deeply savory – hello Worcestershire sauce and onions. But he best part in Mike’s book is the extra surface area means that each portion gets its own helping of the tangy ketchup topping and gently browned edges.

Modern Meatloaf    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Modern Meatloaf | Image: Laura Messersmith