As you may recall, last year I decided to wake up before the sun rose and make my Man Friend a freshly-baked batch of birthday cupcakes. But these were no ordinary cupcakes. There was no buttercream frosting nor chunks of chocolate hiding within the batter. These were something special, because that’s what birthday cupcakes are all about – celebrating the extraordinary. These were savory molds of dough filled with cheddar cheese, bacon, and beer. These, my friends, were Beef Cakes.
And since I’m a girl of tradition (insert my mother rolling her eyes here), I decided that, 365 days later, it was time to wake up with the sun once again and make my lovely little Man Muffin another batch of Beef Cakes for his 28th birthday – a golden birthday to boot. But I didn’t want to just repeat last year’s recipe. That’s too obvious, not to mention boring. So taking a tip from Emeril, I decided to “kick it up a notch!”
For weeks, I brainstormed and deliberated, asking both family members and unsuspecting strangers to weigh in on the dilemma. What kind of Beef Cake would you want to receive? Most people said something involving bacon, so I took that into account. But after considering my many options – Corn Dog Cupcake, Pizza Cupcake, Crocque Monsieur Cupcake, Reuben Sandwich Cupcake – I decided on something foolproof and assuredly delicious that I knew would hold in cupcake form and would contain tons of punch and flavor.
Thus, to commemorate the day that my Hubby-To-Be entered the world, so too was this piece of savory genius born: the Meatloaf Muffin. It was mostly a traditional recipe that included a combination of ground pork and beef, homemade breadcrumbs, carrot, and herbs. But to put a new spin on it, I added fried bacon bits and sautéed fennel and garlic. I manhandled the mixture, scooped handfuls into a cupcake tin, baked them for 40 minutes, and then covered each top with mustard and ketchup “icing.”
“How were they?”, you ask with suspicion. Well, the smell was so extraordinary that it lured the Birthday Boy from the coziest bed ever created. As for their looks, I was told they resembled giant meatballs. It was an apt description – good-looking, giant meatballs. And as for the most important sense of all, taste? Even after they had cooled on the ride to work, it was reported over Gmail that, “People really loved them.” Actually, Boy’s coworker Kevin really loved them. Apparently, he had three.
So thank you, Kevin. And thank you, Mother-In-Law-To-Be for giving me such a good reason to turn meat into a dessert.
As for the rest of you, consider this an early birthday gift. Below is a recipe for a low sodium version of meatloaf cupcakes. I know. You weren’t expecting it. That’s what I do. I surprise people when they least expect.
As odd as they may sound, they are great for large dinner parties, for having food pre-made in individual portions always helps move the serving along – especially when you are feeding a friendzy. Did you see what I just did? I combined friend and frenzy to make “friendzy.” Surprise. Again.
So flip the oven to 350 and get ready to get down with some Meatloaf Muffins. Chow on.
- 1 cup of homemade, no sodium croutons
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 of white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and broken
- 1 bulb of fennel, stems cut off and roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 1 ½ ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a pan over medium heat, brown the 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Add the fennel, onion, and garlic andsautéuntil softened and caramelized.
3. In a food processor combine the carrot, garlic, fennel, and onion. Pulse until finely chopped.
4. Combine the veggie mixture with ground pork, ground chuck, and the bread crumb mixture. Use your hands!
5. Add the eggs, apple cider vinegar, spices, and herbs. Mix thoroughly and then scoop handfuls into well-greased cupcake tins. They make about a dozen meat cakes. Fill until meatloaf rises about a 1/2 inch above the tin. Bake for 40 minutes.
6. Insert a temperature probe at a 45 degree angle into the top of the meatloaf and avoid touching the bottom of the tray with the probe. The cakes are ready when it is at 160 degrees.
7. Before serving, turn broiler on low and let the top of the muffins crisp.