Chef Andrew Curren of 24 Diner fame in Austin Texas serves an elevated version of his mom’s Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy to ovation.
I have been scarfing up this recipe up for years. I finally figured it seemed only fair to share a piece of my ‘recipe fortune’ on Not Entirely Average with each of YOU! You know, in case you weren’t already in on Chef’s AMAZING meatloaf…
With much gratitude and appreciation, this recipe courtesy of Chef Andrew Curren of 24 Diner in Austin, Texas!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
The emphasis is not only on delicious, but also on ‘practical’ when describing Chef Curren’s Meatloaf with Creamy Onion gravy. The method yields two lofty loaves, one to eat now and another to pack in lunches or freeze for later.
I guess I knew with absolute certainty that this method was a keeper when it passed my grandmother’s approval. Gram, queen of meatloaf and everything yummy, had not one, not two, but rather THREE helpings of the stuff.
If I had any pro tips to impart, it’d be to find Monterrey Jack cheese already cubed to save on time. I was fortunate to locate it once, but equally as lucky to find it in stick cheese form (by the string cheese in the grocery refrigerated section) that I could just cube up myself.
How This Recipe Came About…
This method was torn from the pages of Food & Wine Magazine almost a decade ago now. Thick slices of meatloaf positioned at an angle atop a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes and a side of green beans.
That photo was VERY APPEALING. Well, and the healthy spoon-over of luscious creamy gravy did make an impression…
I’d planned on pork chops or a hamburger steak for supper that night, but one glance at this, and my plan was thwarted. As you scan the ingredient list, you’ll notice nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, you likely have almost, if not everything on the list.
Yeah, if I’m honest, it was because it seemed easier than hunting down a fancy pork chop recipe that night, so I opted for the meatloaf. I was not disappointed. With the exception of my Wagyu Meatloaf recipe, this is my go-to method for taste and practicality’s sake. TWO LOAVES!
So, grab a couple of loaf pans, an instant-read thermometer, and an extra-large bowl for mixing. Let’s make meatloaf…
Do You Have What’s Needed to Make Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy? Check The List!
for the meat loaves
- canola oil
- large onion
- large carrots
- celery rib
- garlic cloves
- panko breadcrumbs
- large eggs
- Dijon mustard
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco or other hot sauce
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- ground beef chuck
- ground pork (not sausage)
- cubed Monterey Jack cheese
for the creamy onion gravy
- unsalted butter
- olive oil
- large white onions
- all-purpose flour
- low sodium chicken broth or beef broth
- heavy cream
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
What Are the Origins of Meatloaf Anyway?
According to Wikipedia, during the Great Depression, cooking meatloaf was a way for families to stretch the food budget by using an inexpensive type of meat and left-over ingredients. It was crudely assembled and was bulked up with stale bread or crackers.
In referencing his mom’s meatloaf, Chef Curren indicated that she never put tomato-based ingredients such as ketchup or barbecue sauce atop her loaf. This is apparently what he loved about her method, so he combined elements from other meatloaf methods which he liked and elevated his mom’s meatloaf recipe.
A good meat loaf is the ultimate comfort food. That’s why it’s featured on diner menus across the country.
It didn’t used to be (I basically detested meatloaf until I was in mu 30s), but a traditional meatloaf is among my favorite things. And day after lunchtime meat loaf sandwiches are an added bonus. That’s why this recipe is so appealing to me.
For no extra effort, I get two loaves from this method. One to eat now, and another to pack in lunches or freeze for later. This comes full circle as I am always looking for ways to stretch my food dollar in the kitchen, just as folks were during those tight years that were the Depression.
How To Make Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy?
Preparing The Ingredients
I always recommend you begin by gathering all of the ingredients. Measure everything out in advance so you aren’t stopping mid-recipe to go search for things.
You’ll need two loaf pans or a singular large roasting pan for this method, as you’ll be assembling two loaves. If using a large roasting pan, wad up a very large sheet of parchment paper, then smooth it back out and line the pan with it. Previously crumbled parchment stays put.
You can also use a large sheet of aluminum foil to line the roasting pan. For this, I recommend spraying the foil with a bit of cooking spray once you’ve got it positioned in the bottom of the pan.
If using individual loaf pans, I recommend spraying the bottoms and sides of each with cooking spray before setting atop a rimmed baking sheet also lined with aluminum foil. Should any annoying bubble-overs occur, you’re covered.
Begin the Meatloaves
Preheat your oven and begin the mix by sauteing and softening your trilogy (onions, carrots, and celery) in a medium skillet over moderate heat. I give mine 8 to 10 minutes before I scrape into a very large bowl for them to cool.
To the cooled trilogy, I add eggs, Panko, Dijon mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper. Stirring using the tines of a fork help to create this ensemble into a paste.
From here, I add both the ground pork as well as the ground beef, breaking up with my fingers as I drop it into the bowl. The cubed Monterey Jack cheese follows, and my hands become the tool for mixing everything together.
Baking the Meatloaves
At this point, you’ll need to evenly divide the meatloaf mixture evenly, as you’ll be packing two loaf pans, or patting two 10-inch-long loaves by hand to fit into the roasting pan spaced 3 inches apart. Pop them into the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour.
The tops will be lightly browned, and an instant-read thermometer will register an internal temperature of 150°F when tested in the center of each loaf when they are done. I always pull them from the oven and tent with foil for the meat to rest while I’m whipping some potatoes or putting the finishing touches on the creamy onion gravy recipe.
Is This Creamy Onion Gravy Worth the Additional Time?
There are plenty of methods which specify the use of a can of ‘cream of something soup,’ or a sachet of powdered onion soup mix, but for the handful of minutes this takes to make from scratch, the effort beats out ANY AND ALL convenient shortcuts.
The first time you taste it, you will classify it as being, by far, amazing. I am of the opinion that this gravy renders this the absolute best meatloaf out there.
As long as the ingredients are prepped, the creamy onion gravy needn’t be begun until about 20 minutes AFTER you put the meatloaves into the oven to bake. In terms of gravy recipes, I really like to take my time with this one and follow the instructions to a ‘T.’
Prepare the Onions
Begin with very thinly sliced onion. They best way to achieve thin slices is by way of a mandolin. If you don’t own a mandolin, simply peel the onion back, cut in half from top to root, and use your best chef’s knife to get even thin sliced onions.
In a large saucepan, heat to melt some butter along with olive oil. Add the onion slices and give the whole thing a good stir to coat the onions completely.
You’re NOT looking for browned onions here, just softened. I go medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, covered. Stir them around a couple of times in between and reduce the heat if they appear as though they are cooking to fast and browning.
Assemble the Gravy
After the onions are exactly where you want them, stir in some flour and cook out that flour taste for 2 to 3 minutes. I use a whisk to keep things “moving about the pan.” Use your nose and aim for ‘nutty‘ versus ‘still smells like flour.’
Whisk in the chicken stock (may use beef stock) and cook until the mixture is thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Next goes in the heavy cream and again the mixture simmers for another 5 or so minutes.
Set up a blender near your workstation. Transfer half the onion mixture to the blender and puree until smooth. Return the mixture back into the saucepan and add the reserved onions.
Reduce the mixture over medium-low heat. You want to end up with roughly 5 cups of gravy when all is said and done.
Meatloaf With Creamy Onion Gravy
- 2 meatloaf pans or 1 large roasting pan that can fit 2 meatloaves
- large mixing bowl
- stand blender or immersion blender
Ingredients for Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy
for the meatloaves
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 large carrots finely chopped
- 1 rib celery finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 pounds ground beef chuck
- 1 pound ground pork not pork sausage
- 8 ounce block Monterey Jack cheese cubed into roughly 1/2-inch cubes
for the creamy onion gravy
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large white onions halved and each half very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- pinch Kosher salt or to taste
- pinch black pepper or to taste
to assemble the meatloaves
- Preheat oven to 400° and adjust rack to the lower third of your oven. Spray 2 meatloaf pans with cooking spray on bottoms and sides and place atop a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Alternatively, line a large roasting pan with foil (sprayed with cooking spray) or parchment paper.
- In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a very large mixing bowl and allow to mostly cool. To the cooled trilogy, add the panko, eggs, Dijon, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Use the tines of a fork to stir to form a paste. Using your hands, work in the ground chuck and the ground pork and cheese cubes until combined.
- Pack the mixture evenly between the 2 loaf pans or firmly pat the meat mixture into 2 loaves, about 10-inches long each, and 3-inches apart and roast in the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour. The tops of the loaves will be lightly browned, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves will register 150°F when done. Rest the loaves tented under foil for 15 minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve with the Creamy Onion Gravy.
for the creamy onion gravy
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the olive oil and add the sliced white onions. Stir well to coat everything nicely before covering with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium to medium-low heat until the onions are very soft, about 10 minutes. NOTE: you are not frying the onions to brown them, rather cooking over a gentle heat to soften and turn a lovely translucent golden.
- Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk for about 2 minutes or until the flour smell is cooked out, the mixture begins to turn golden, and the aroma is nutty. Add the chicken stock and cook, whisking, until the gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer the onion gravy over moderate heat for about 5 minutes. Gravy will be bubbling which means you'll need to whisk again periodically to prevent any sticking.
- Transfer half of the onion gravy to a blender or use an immersion blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed gravy to the untouched portion in the saucepan and season with salt and black pepper. Simmer until reduced to about 5 cups. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Modifying the Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average
As with so many chef’s recipes I share on Not Entirely Average, there is not much I ever recommend doing to alter pure perfection. There are those who will write in, asking me if they can substitute garlic salt for garlic cloves, ground turkey meat instead of beef and pork, or torn bread in lieu of the panko breadcrumbs.
The truth is, I don’t know. Why not? Because I’ve not yet messed (and probably never will) with Chef Curren’s perfect meatloaf recipe.
I feel like the MOST I would ever do would be to splurge for a high caliber of ground beef. A mixture of grassfed ground meats maybe.
But honestly, that is it. THAT is the extent of ‘change’ I could ever imagine making, but for my immediate cooking plans, likely will not.
Why? Don’t fix what ain’t broke, folks. Chef Curren’s recipe for Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy is meatloaf PERFECTION.
What To Serve Alongside Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy?
As I alluded to above, this recipe is perfect accompanied by a side of whipped potatoes.
Green beans generally flank a classic meatloaf recipe, so consider my method for Brown Butter French Green Beans with Toasted Pecans.
I think too, that my Sweet and Tangy Carrots would also make a great accompaniment.
How To Serve Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy?
If you plan to make this ahead, a fabulous way to serve this meatloaf after it’s been baked and refrigerated is to slice it thick and use unsalted butter to brown each slice on both sides in a skillet.
Of course, straight out of your oven works, too! If I’ve prepared using a loaf pan, I remove the meat via the pan handles, allow it a brief rest, then push it onto a large serving dish.
A light drizzle of gravy zig-zagged right down the middle allows eaters a taste, while the remaining gravy is passed at the table.
What to Drink with Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy?
Red wine compliments a good meatloaf, hands down. But you may be surprised at the suggestion of a Rosé.
I was pleased to return home with MANY bottles of wine from a visit to the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. Among the bottles in my hoard were Rosés from many small vintners.
A couple to look for here in the States include Vin de Pay’s d’Oc, Rosé Corbières, and Saint Chinian. They are readily available, will not drain your wallet, and compliment the sugars in the onion gravy magically!
If red wine is still your preference, consider a California north coast vintage like Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I like this over other reds and old vine Zins because of its depth of character and the tannins.
Beer runs the gambit here because so many pair well. A good idea I (and one I recommend) is an IPA or dark lager.
Yeah, I get there’s a lot of middle ground, but both ultimately avoid overpowering other flavors, contrasting the onion gravy here which is the star of this show.
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