Meatloaf has got to be my 8yr old's favorite meal. I'm sure if it was up to him, we'd eat it at least three times a week. After years of trying many meatloaf recipes, I found that a lot of the recipes I'd tried we're either dry and dense or moist, but flavorless (like salt and pepper flavored ONLY. BLAH!). So I tinkered around in my kitchen until I came up with a meatloaf recipe that's both moist and full of flavor. The moistness in this meatloaf is due in part to the secret ingredient that is rather unusual to find in savory dishes. You probably want in on this secret ingredient, don't you? Wait for it, wait for it....it's APPLESAUCE!! The meatloaf also has what my hubby likes to call "little surprises" in every bite thanks to the Knorr recipe mix that I add to the uncooked meatloaf. That also gives the meatloaf beautiful flecks of color throughout. The mix of herbs and spices used in this meatloaf eliminates the possibility of having a boring meatloaf. As I always say, there's more flavors to add to food besides salt and pepper. To top it all off is the slathering sauce that I adorn my meatloaf with. It's sweet, smokey and tangy all at the same time. The oven heat caramelizes the brown sugar in the slathering sauce and makes it lip-smacking, finger-licking good! I really could just eat the sauce by the spoonful. Huh? Don't judge me!
You have the option of using this meatloaf recipe to make a traditional loaf-shaped meatloaf (as demonstrated) in method #1, or you can use muffin pans to make smaller, individually-sized portions that are shaped like cupcakes, as demonstrated in method #2. Top the cupcake-shaped meatloaf with creamy mashed potatoes (just make sure there's absolutely NO lumps in your mashed potatoes) and you'll have yourself a cupcake lookalike for dinner. I made my creamy mashed potatoes from scratch (boil potatoes in salted water, drain and mash once fork-tender, add some sour cream and milk. That's it!). No fancy equipment is required to pipe the creamy mashed potatoes onto your meatloaf cupcake. I used a disposable piping bag for the job. You can also use a food-safe, resealable plastic bag (ziplock bag). Just snip off one corner and you're ready to pipe! Glee will abound at your dinner table (especially if you're cooking for young ones)!
Enough of the descriptives, here's how you make it...
Serving Size: Feeds 6-8 comfortably.
Loaf pan, healthy meatloaf pan (Seperates the meatloaf from it's fat as it bakes) or roasting pan.
Ingredients For The Meatloaf :
-2 lbs lean ground beef (I used 90% lean, 10% fat).
-5 Oz. Pork Chorizo, casing removed (optional).
-1 teaspoon celery salt.
-1 teaspoon ground cumin.
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1 teaspoon onion powder.
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
-1 teaspoon dry thyme.
-2 1.4 Oz. Packs of Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix (to add textural interest). This can be found in the soup aisle at the grocery store.
-1 cup dry, plain breadcrumbs.
-1/3 cup tomato ketchup.
-1/3 cup plain applesauce (keeps your meatloaf moist).
-1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce.
-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional). This can be found next to barbecue sauces at the grocery store.
-1 large egg, beaten (acts as a binder).
-1 teaspoon salt .
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
-1 small onion, grated (this too, will help keep your meatloaf moist. Save any resulting juice from the grating process and use it as well).
Ingredients for the slathering sauce:
-1/4 cup tomato ketchup.
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
-1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar.
-1 tablespoon onion powder.
METHOD # 1 (Loaf-Shaped Meatloaf):
Instructions for preparing the meatloaf
-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheight (180 degrees Celcius).
-In a big mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the ground beef and chorizo. Combine well.
-Add the ground beef and chorizo to the mixing bowl. With a light hand, use a fork to combine the meats into the other ingredients, just until combined. Do not overwork the mixture as this will result in a dense meatloaf :(
-Transfer the mixture into your loaf pan or special meatloaf pan. Use the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula to spread and smooth the meat mixture into an even layer in the pan. Fill the loaf/meatloaf pan 3/4 way full. If you're using a baking sheet, lightly grease your sheet pan, shape the meat mixture into a loaf shape on the baking sheet and proceed to the next set of instructions.
-Combine the ingredients for the slathering sauce and mix well until the sugar dissolves.
-Use a pastry or basting brush to brush the top of the meatloaf with the slathering sauce. Reserve about 3 tablespoons of the sauce. Set aside.
-Cover the meatloaf with aluminum foil and set in the center rack of the oven. Allow to bake for 45 minutes.
-Remove the aluminum foil from the meatloaf and apply the reserved 3 tablespoons of slathering sauce over the meatloaf.
-Return the meatloaf to the oven and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes. Once cooked, an instant-read thermometer should register at at 165 degrees Fahreinheight when inserted in the center of the meatloaf. The meatloaf should also pull away from the sides of the pan when done.
-Remove the meatloaf from the pan and allow the pan to rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, loosely tented with aluminum foil. If you're using the kind of meatloaf pan shown in the video, lift the insert out of the meatloaf pan and transfer the meatloaf onto a serving platter. If you used a roasting pan to bake your meatloaf, use a large, wide spatula to transfer the meatloaf to a platter. Remember to loosely tent with aluminum foil as it rests.
METHOD # 2 (Cupcake-Shaped Meatloaf):
Special Equipment Needed:
-2 ungreased muffin pans (this recipe makes 16 muffin-sized meatloafs).
Additional Ingredient Required:
-Creamy mashed potatoes, already prepared. Use whichever recipe you'd normally use to make mashed potatoes, just make sure there are absolutely NO lumps. A sieve or food-mill can help you achieve creamy mashed potatoes. If you have no patience for that, you can use boxed mashed potatoes.
-Follow the same steps in method # 1 (as far as mixing the ingredients and also making the slathering sauce).
-Once all the ingredients are combined, use a spoon or spatula to transfer the meat mixture into the wells of a muffin pan.
-Make sure that your meat mixture does not dome as you put it into the wells (use a knife to ensure that the meat lays flush in the hole. Apply light pressure using the back of the spon to ensure that there are no air pockets.
-Use a basting brush to brush the slathering sauce over each meatloaf "cupcake".
-Loosely cover the muffin-pans with Aluminium foil and set the muffin pans on the center rack of the oven. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius) for 45mins-1hr. Remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of cooking to allow the slathering sauce to caramelize. The meatloaf is done when the meat pulls away from the sides of the pan (see image below).
-Set the muffin pans over cooling racks and allow the meatloaf cupcakes to cool (for at least 8-10minutes).
-Place your prepared mashed potatoes in the piping bag or ziplock bag (with one corner snipped), and pipe the potatoes decoratively over the meatloaf "cupcake". For garnish, sprinkle the piped meatloaf cupcakes with finely chopped chives. If you'd like to drizzle some gravy over your "meatloaf cupcakes", reserve the fat that was rendered in the muffin pan as you baked the meatloaf. Use the recipe below for the gravy.
*** If you'd like to make gravy to spoon over your meatloaf, here's what you'll need:
-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
-2 cups beef stock.
-2 tablespoons fat that was rendered from baking the meatloaf OR 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Instructions For Making the gravy:
-Measure 2 tablespoons of the fat rendered as you baked the meatloaf and place it in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan. Heat on medium heat.
-Add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the fat and let it bubble for about 1 minute, stirring constantly using a whisk. Doing this will rid your gravy of the raw flour taste. Do not let the flour burn!
-Gradually whisk in 2 cups of beef stock to the fat/flour mixture, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until a thickened gravy forms.
-Season with salt and pepper.
-Run the gravy through a strainer to remove any particles as the gravy should be smooth and creamy.
This dish goes well with mashed potatoes or creamy Mac & Cheese (see my earlier post on creamy marcaroni & cheese) and a side of vegetables (like I did below). If you opt to omit the chorizo called for in this recipe for whatever reason, it will still be delicious! Yes, I did pour some gravy over the meatloaf after I took this shot :)
Leftovers can be used to make meatloaf sandwiches, just add some ketchup and you're in business :). This meatloaf defies all reason as it tastes even better the next day!