I’ll spare you my standard speech about miniature food. Suffice it to say: If it’s small, I’m all over it. These mini meat loaves are no exception.
Based on Ina Garten’s fabulous recipe, these meat loaves pack huge comfort-food goodness in a small package. They’re a great thing to serve at a dinner party. I mean, come on: Who wouldn’t love a little meatloaf, made just for them?
Ina’s original recipe calls for all chuck (which is cheap and delicious).
I used a more traditional meatloaf mix of beef, pork, and veal. Use any mix of meat you like. Just be sure you wind up with 2 1/2 lbs. For the beef, definitely get ground chuck if you can. It has tons of flavor.
I also swapped in panko bread crumbs for regular, which provide a nice texture.
Panko are Japanese bread crumbs (made from crustless white bread). Most major grocery stores carry panko these days. If you can’t find them in your area, hit up an Asian market or order some online.
Panko bread crumbs
These little loaves are moist and meaty and all-together nap inducing, like all good comfort food. They have a subtle sweetness from a few cups of caramelized sweet onions, and mellow, earthy notes from mushroom soy sauce and a generous amount of fresh thyme.
The top gets covered in regular old ketchup. I like Heinz, but by all means, use your favorite.
Barbecue sauce would work, too, though the flavor could be overpowering depending on what kind you use.
Command your own little meatloaf army
Even if it’s just for a little while. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Seriously, though, they’re kind of fun to make. Tell me I’m wrong. (Smoosh, form, paint with ketchup…)
Alrighty. To the kitchen!
Mini Meat Loaves
Based on Ina Garten’s recipe
1 Tbls. olive oil
3 cups sweet onions, chopped (from 2-3 large onions)
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tbls. mushroom soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tbls. tomato paste
1 lb. ground chuck (81% lean)
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
fresh parsley, minced, for garnish
Yields about 6 mini meat loaves
Preheat your oven to 350.
Caramelize the onions
Grab your onions.
Remove the peels and chop them up.
Put the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat. Measure out 3 cups of onions. Toss them in the pan.
Add the thyme, black pepper, and a little kosher salt. (Go easy on the salt because you’re going to add mushroom soy, which is plenty salty, later on.) Stir to combine.
Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent and brown. (Keep an eye on your heat and turn it down if need be. You want them to brown, but not stick to the pan and burn.)
When they look about like this, yank the pan off the heat.
Add the mushroom soy sauce, tomato paste, and chicken stock to the pan with the onions.
Stir to combine. Set the pan aside for a minute or two while you deal with the meat.
Make the meat mixture
Grab your meat. Toss it all in a large bowl.
Add the panko bread crumbs.
Quickly beat the eggs.
Pour the beaten eggs into the bowl.
And add the onion mixture.
Now, here’s the trick to making meatloaf that’s light and fluffy (i.e. not dense, thick, and heavy). Are you ready?
Don’t overmix it.
In fact, handle the mixture as little as possible—only enough to combine the ingredients together. Kind of the same way you make biscuits. That’s what you want to do here.
So, with your hands (or a fork, if you’d rather not get your paws all gooey), gently mix the ingredients together until just combined.
Line a baking sheet with foil, then set a piece of parchment paper on top (if they stick, they’ll be much easier to get off the paper than the foil).
Form the loaves
Measure out 1 1/4 cups of meatloaf mixture. Plop it on your pan.
Shape the mixture gently, so that it resembles half a football. Again, you want to go easy here. Don’t mash the mixture together, which can make it tough and dense.
Repeat with the rest of your mixture, until you have 6 mini loaves.
I made mine a little smaller, so I could have enough to experiment with baking them in ramekins.
Grab your ketchup. Plunk a generous tablespoon on top of each loaf.
With your finger (or the back of a spoon), spread the ketchup around so that it covers the top.
Repeat with all your loaves.
Bake the meat loaves
Pop them into your preheated 350-degree oven. If you’re baking them in ramekins, set the dishes on a pan to catch any drips (mine bubbled over a little).
Bake 40-45 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. Start checking them after about 30 minutes, as your final cooking time will depend on how thick your particular loaves are. When they’re done, yank them out of the oven.
Now, depending on how fatty your meat is, your meat loaves are going to let out a little—or a lot—of juice. Don’t be alarmed if yours look like this. It’s kind of gross, I know. But it’s just fine.
Just scoop them off the pan with 2 spatulas.
Transfer them to a serving platter, and…presto! Little, picture-perfect rustic meat loaves. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
Oh, the meat loaves in the ramekins. They were good, but a wee bit on the greasy side. I’m not sure I’d do it again.
Let me tell ya: These are fabulous straight out of the oven. I swear, though, they’re even better the next day, reheated with cheese on a toasted bulkie roll.