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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.
With much gratitude and appreciation, this recipe courtesy of Chef Andrew Curren of 24 Diner in Austin, Texas!
I feel it 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 Andrew Curren’s AMAZING meatloaf…
A good meat loaf is the ultimate comfort food, placing it front and center on diner menus across America. But what is today an anticipated meal, was during the Great Depression a way to stretch the food budget.
For no extra effort, this method yields two lofty meat loaves, one to eat now and another to pack in lunches or freeze for later! TWO LOAVES!
My grandmother, ‘queen of all meatloaf and everything yummy,’ had THREE helpings of Chef Curren’s meatloaf. After that, I knew I needed to hang onto the recipe I’d torn from the pages of Food & Wine Magazine almost a decade ago. 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, THAT and the healthy spoon-over of luscious creamy gravy did make an impression… 😉 If it’s ground beef recipes you’re after, don’t miss my French Onion Salisbury Steak, Swedish Meatballs, or my Wagyu Meatloaf!
Ingredients That Go Into This Recipe
Some readers will ask about substituting garlic salt for garlic cloves, ground turkey meat instead of beef and pork, or torn bread in lieu of the panko breadcrumbs in this classic meatloaf recipe. I don’t know, and probably never will. Why not? Because it’s already perfect! Serve with whipped potatoes and green beans and dare to disagree!
- Canola oil
- White onions – offer a sharp, sweet flavor that adds depth to the gravy.
- Celery rib – only one is needed, but it is needed!
- Garlic cloves
- Panko breadcrumbs – light, airy, and more absorbent than regular breadcrumbs keeping the meat from becoming greasy.
- Dijon mustard
- Worcestershire sauce – this brings that Umami flavor profile front and center!
- Tabasco or other hot sauce
- Ground beef chuck
- Ground pork – do not substitute sausage.
- Monterey Jack cheese – purchase cheese sticks which can be cubed quickly.
- Unsalted butter
- Olive oil
- All-purpose flour
- Low sodium chicken broth or homemade stock – elevates the flavor profile of the onions, that which beef broth cannot do.
- Heavy cream – for richness and that classic creamy gravy texture!
- Rosemary sprigs – optional but I highly recommend!
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
Substitutions and Variations
- Glaze the Loaves – the traditional ‘meatloaf purist’ way of crowning a meatloaf! See my method with ingredients and amounts just below and in the recipe card.
- Ground lamb – use in lieu of the ground pork.
- Shiitake, Chanterelle, or Maitake mushrooms – offer a a deep, earthy flavor with a hint of smokiness. Dice and add 1/2-cup to the meatloaf mixture for additional moisture and flavor.
- Italian Meatloaf – together with all specified ingredients, add 1/2-cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1/4-cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to the meatloaf mixture.
Need to Make Ahead?
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.
Making the gravy ahead works, too. Store in an airtight container refrigerated up to three days. Reheat over medium-low heat directly on your stovetop stirring frequently.
Glaze vs. Gravy: Do Both!
I receive too many emails from ‘meatloaf purists’ not to address the lack of a glaze on the meatloaf in the original publication of this post. Chef Curren admits that the glaze is the part of a meatloaf he dislikes the most, hence the absence of glaze in his recipe. So I took some liberties…
Can a meatloaf be enjoyed with both a glaze AND gravy? It sure can, and after a bunch of taste-testing (it was a struggle ;-)), we liked…scratch that…LOVED this one in conjunction with the gravy.
This mixture makes enough glaze to evenly coat BOTH meatloaves. Simply whisk together and coat during the final 40 minutes of the bake.
- 1-cup apple butter
- 4 tablespoons brown light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- Kosher salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Chicken Broth vs. Beef Broth: Which Is Better for Gravy?
Despite this being a beef dish, the onion gravy is entirely a different matter. So which is better?
Ultimately, and to elevate the flavor profile of the onions, use chicken broth or stock. Keep these tips in mind when choosing between chicken or beef broth:
- Chicken, Fish, or Vegetables – use a light-flavored broth, such as chicken broth or even better, homemade chicken stock. If you are cooking a heavier-flavored meat, such as beef or pork, then you can use a richer-flavored broth, such as beef broth.
- Seasonings – If you are using strong seasonings, such as garlic or ginger, then you may want to use a milder broth, such as chicken broth. If you are not using strong seasonings, then you can use a more flavorful broth, such as beef broth.
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 10 to 15 minutes AFTER you put the meatloaves into the oven to bake.
Step By Step Instructions
When it comes time to mix, use your hands. Feeling the mixture is the best way to ensure you get everything incorporated and don’t over-mix during the process.
1: Preheat your oven and begin the mix by sauteing and softening your trilogy (onion, carrot, 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.
2: To the cooled trilogy, I add 4 room temperature eggs, Panko, Dijon mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper. Stirring using the tines of a fork helps to form these components into a paste.
3: 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.
4: The cubed Monterey Jack cheese follows, and my clean hands become the tool for mixing everything together.
5: Evenly divide the meatloaf mixture loosely packing two loaf pans or patting two 10-inch-long loaves to fit a roasting pan (space them 3 inches apart). Bake in the lower third of the oven for 1 hour or when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of each loaf registers 150°F. Rest loaves for 15 minutes before removing from pans to platter(s). If glazing, spoon over during final 40 minutes of oven time.
6: Begin with 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 slices.
7: In a large saucepan, melt some butter along with olive oil. Add the onion slices and give the whole thing a good stir to coat the onions completely.
8: You’re NOT looking for browned onions, just softened. I go medium-low 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.
9: After the onions are exactly where you want them, use a slotted spoon to remove onions to a bowl. DO NOT WIPE THE PAN. Stir 1/4-cup flour into the empty pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture will be dry. Just use a wooden spoon to keep things moving. Close your eyes and use your nose; sniff for ‘nutty‘ versus ‘raw flour.’
10: Add the onions back to the pan. Whisk in the chicken 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.
11: Set up a blender near your workstation. Transfer half the onion mixture to the blender and puree until smooth. Air bubbles during blending will cause the mixture to appear very light, however the caramel color will deepen as the gravy reduces.
12: Return the mixture back into the saucepan and add the reserved onions and sprigs of rosemary. Reduce down slowly, thickening the mixture over medium-low heat for 20 – 30 minutes. You want to end up with roughly 4 to 4 1/2-cups of gravy when all is said and done.
How To Serve Meatloaf With Onion Gravy
- After a brief rest, load the meatloaf onto a large serving dish and give a light drizzle of gravy zig-zagged right down the middle and garnish with fresh thyme or parsley.
- Pass the remaining gravy tableside.
- Serve with whipped potatoes, parmesan-crusted potatoes, or any variety of vegetable side dishes.
- Offer a well-chilled Rosé such as 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!
Build the Ultimate Meatloaf Sandwich!
Skip the gravy! Griddle two thick slices of sourdough bread with unsalted butter in a pan. Spread a dollop of apple butter on each slice as the sourdough toasts, then top each with a slice of mild cheese such as Havarti. Once the bread is golden, remove to a cutting board. Add a single monumentally thick slice of meatloaf on one slice of bread, followed by copious amounts of tomato ketchup, and finish with raw onion, bibb lettuce, and the remaining slice of bread. Press down gently as you slice it on the diagonal. Enjoy!
- If you will not serve both meatloaves at once, I recommend wrapping one in foil and refrigerating up to 3 days, or placing the foil-wrapped loaf into a freezer bag and into your freezer for up to 3 months.
- Table leftovers to include the gravy may be stored in airtight containers with tight-fitting lids up to 3 days.
Jenny’s Recipe Pro Tips
- If you have a meatloaf pan with a removable insert, use it!
- Cube Monterrey Jack stick cheese (by the string cheese) to save yourself the hassle of having to cube a giant block.
- Japanese Panko breadcrumbs make a big difference versus regular breadcrumbs and yield a far less greasy baked loaf.
- Don’t overwork the meat mixture when combing all the ingredients or you chance a tough final product.
Be sure not to over-bake your loaves. Bake to an internal temperature of 160°F ONLY, then rest the meatloaf for 5 to 10 minutes allowing the juices time to reabsorb.
In this recipe, eggs and Panko act as binders to keep the meat from crumbling and cracking.
350°F is the rule of thumb for meatloaf as it is too low to dry the meatloaf out, while remaining hot enough to hasten the caramelizing crust on the top.
More Ground Beef Main Dished You Will Love
Meatloaf With Creamy Onion Gravy
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 large white onions 1 finely chopped, the remaining 2 halved and each half thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots grated or very finely chopped
- 1 rib celery finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
- 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
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart low sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock if on hand
- 1 cup heavy cream room temperature
- rosemary fresh sprigs; optional but recommended
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt plus, more to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper plus, more to taste
- 1 cup apple butter
- 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic finely minced
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Adjust rack to lower third of oven. Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Alternatively, line a large roasting pan with foil (sprayed with cooking spray) or parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add one finely chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Scrape mixture into a very large mixing bowl. Allow to cool. To the cooled mixture, add panko, eggs, Dijon, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Use a fork to mix to form a paste. Use your hands to work in the ground pork, chuck, and cheese cubes until combined.
- Loosely 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. NOTE: if glazing, spoon evenly over both loaves during the final 40 minutes of the oven bake.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter together with olive oil. Add the remaining two sliced white onions. Stir to coat then cover 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.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove onions to a bowl. DO NOT WIPE PAN. Whisk flour into the pan and cook 2 minutes or until the mixture turns golden, and the aroma is nutty smelling. Return the onions to the pan. Adjust heat to medium-high. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking, until the gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream. Simmer 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 and puree until smooth. Return the pureed gravy to the reserved portion in the saucepan and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced to 4 to 5 cups. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- For The Optional Glaze: Makes enough to evenly coat BOTH meatloaves. Whisk all and coat during the final 40 minutes of the oven time. Glaze and creamy onion gravy complement one another nicely!
- Onion gravy complements meat with/without glaze. Assembly optional.
- Regular breadcrumbs are not a substitute for panko; their use will result in greasy loaves.
- Ground lamb may be used in place of ground pork.
- Add 1/2-cup chopped fresh parsley, 1/4-cup grated Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano to mixture for Italian flavor profile.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.