Monday, March 19, 2012

Meatloaf Cupcakes - cutest meat you'll ever eat

Does anyone ever have a craving for meatloaf? I mean, really? Ever?

Well, on rare occasions, I do. I think back to when I was little and my mom used to make that ever so reminiscent loaf oozing over with that red ketchup sauce, baked to perfection. I watched her closely and not only did she add her special ingredient of love, but she labored over it. Making a meatloaf takes time and effort. It's not a throw-it-together-and-get-it-on-the-table-in-twenty kind of food. It takes time and love.

And patience.

Most recipes call for almost an hour baking time or more.

The Mother Loaf 
So, when I saw a new kind of bakery featured on an episode of Sugar High on the Food Network, I was intrigued by this amazing new discovery - the meatloaf cupcake. It sounded and LOOKED delicious. I was more than intrigued. I was beguiled.

I wanted to test this little savory confection for all it's worth and see if it was reminiscent of my beloved childhood dinner and worthy of being placed in the long line of memorable entrees.

The Meatloaf Bakery in Chicago, Illinois is the source of this fascination. They have taken the basic, 50's era, mainstream staple and created a work of art. The "cupcakes" are not even remotely sweet, other than by their very nature. They come in just about every variety with genius inspiration by an owner who clearly loves this vintage food. Cynthia, the creator of The Meatloaf Bakery, lovingly bakes individual portion-sizes in jumbo cupcake pans and then gets really creative with the toppings. She uses everything from garlic mashed potatoes to spaghetti with a meatball-inspired base to a gluten-free vegetarian option topped with a roasted red bell pepper coulis.

And each of them looks gorgeous, mouth-watering and incredibly yummy.

The Omega-3 Loaf
Ah, the ubiquitous meatloaf redesigned in a fresh, newly-modern, ready-to-eat package that is cuter than words can possibly say. I think I'm in love.

This culinary genius has even gone so far as to create a meatloaf cake for party-goers who just can't handle one more ultra-sweet, way-to-sugary baked confection. And I think I might just convert. Or at least make it for a special occasion like my sweet neighbor's birthday - who doesn't favor sweet treats much at all. Or for my stepdad who enjoys a piece of cake or pie on occasion, but would hands-down prefer a cake made entirely from meat and potatoes. Not only am I in love; I think I'm sold.

Thank you, Meatloaf Bakery. You have changed how I view meatloaf forever. <3

And then, my love and meat-colored glasses came to a screeching halt.

I don't live in Chicago.

I don't live anywhere near Chicago.

What's a girl to do when she needs to get her savory cupcake on? Do what I do best. Get creative.

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

Recipe by Hannah Smith and Michelle Hankes 

Makes 6 jumbo cupcakes or 9 regular cupcakes

Meatloaf Cupcakes:

½             large onion, diced (about ½ cup)
1              tsp chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
1              lb lean ground beef
4              uncooked chicken sausages of choice (we chose basil and sundried tomato), casings removed and discarded
¼             cup breadcrumbs (regular or gluten-free)
1              egg, lightly beaten
1-2          tsp Italian seasoning or Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkles
¼             cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
½             cup grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for sautéing

Mashed Potato Frosting:

7-8          medium red potatoes (about 4 cups), cut into 2-inch chunks (peeling is optional)
2              oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces and allowed to come to room temperature
1              tbsp butter, room temperature
½             tbsp ground cumin
¼             cup milk (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. For meatloaf cupcakes: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously spray a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan with cooking oil and set aside.

2. Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic with a pinch or two of salt and pepper to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool briefly.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine beef, sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, cheeses and several nice, generous pinches of salt and pepper. Combine gently with hands, just until mixed.

4. Taking care that the onion mixture isn’t too hot to touch, add the onions and garlic to the meat mixture. Gently mix with hands to combine. Don’t over mix.

5. Divide meat mixture into 6 equal portions and press lightly into oiled muffin pan. Gently pat down and flatten the tops of each “cupcake.”

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the largest meatloaf cupcake no longer shows pink in the middle and reaches a safe temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.

7. For Mashed Potato Frosting: Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Place the potatoes back into the pot and mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth (we liked them a little chunky). Add cream cheese, butter, and cumin and mix to combine. Add milk (if needed), 1 tbsp at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. To assemble: Place meatloaf cupcake on a plate (either for serving or individual plates), then frost with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes can either be piped onto the cupcakes with a piping bag and whatever tip you choose, with a ziploc baggie with the corner cut off, or with an ice cream scooper. Once cupcake and frosting are in place, sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top to look like sprinkles. Enjoy!

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