As previously established, I have some picky eaters at my house. My pickiest eater is my middle child, who also happens to barely sneak onto the weight chart at the pediatrician’s – not because we don’t feed him (or at least try to), but because all my children have the metabolism of hummingbirds. Between striving to establish healthy eating habits, present food that will actually get consumed, maximize caloric density, and trim a few pounds off the mister and myself, I am nearly at my wits’ end most nights.
A few weeks ago I made meatloaf in order to sneak in a selection of veggies I had on hand thanks to the organic produce delivery service. My oldest son loved it, and insisted on taking meatloaf sandwiches to school all week. My middle son, Mr. Picky, loves “meat” (meaning steak) but is still getting used to the idea of ground beef. Hearing about the relative enthusiasm for this exotic new dish, my sister sent me the meatloaf recipe she somehow acquired from Hackney’s, our hometown standby.
Oh, Hackneys. How I long for thee! Whenever I am home it’s the first place I want to go for a Hackneyburger, which is oval and served on dark rye. But it’s really all about one simple thing: the onion rings. Hackney’s serves the absolute best onion rings in the entire world*, still in the loaf shape from the fryer. You may smell like onions for an extra day or two, but oh how they are worth it. Hackneyburger, onion loaf, and a vodka tonic, and all is right in my world.
So tonight I decided to try a few things: (1) employ Mr. Picky as my sous-chef; (2) make the Hackney’s meatloaf; and (3) make a side of onion rings. Because I can’t have a Hackney’s-inspired meal without onion rings! But this being the Rancho rather than the patio on Harms, I lightened things up a little bit. For one, I have a great meatloaf pan that has one pan (with draining holes) that sits inside the loaf pan, so the fat drains away instead of immersing the meat. For another, I decided to try out Ellie Krieger’s oven baked onion rings recipe. I made a few adjustments; first, I ran out of flour so I substituted masa harina, and I think the subtle corn flavor works. Second, Ellie’s recipe calls for 2 onions and expects a yield of 12-14 rings to serve four people, which is perfectly ridiculous. The coating mixture makes more than enough to cover four onions worth of rings, so halving that and slicing up two onions will work just fine to serve four (and generate considerably more than 14 rings). It’s not the loaf, but it was a winner! Mr. Picky not only helped, he served the meal (putting on a shirt to do so), cleared the table, and ate almost all of his meatloaf. Not so much the broccoli, but that will be a battle for another day.
Hackney’s Meatloaf (adapted from the original recipe)
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 pepper (color of your choice)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 pieces of bread, crusts trimmed, soaked in milk, then squeezed out and torn up
- 1/2 c. ketchup
- 1 generous spoonful sour cream
Mix everything together except the beef, then mix in meat. Fill loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for 1 hour. If you aren’t using a self-draining pan, drain grease occasionally.
Oven Baked Onion Rings (adapted from Ellie Krieger)
- cooking spray
- 2 c. baked potato chips (not the ruffled kind)
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk (you can make your own using this recipe from our Mama of the Month!)
- 1/4 c. plus 1 T. all-purpose flour, or masa harina
- 1/4 t. salt, plus more to taste
- pinch t. freshly ground pepper
- 2 large vidalia onions
Preheat oven to 450. Cover two cookie sheets with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside. Using a food processor, grind the potato chips into fine crumbs. Transfer to a shallow bowl and mix in cayenne. In another shallow bowl, combine the buttermilk, 1 T. of the flour or masa, the salt, and the pepper, and set aside.
Slice the onions into 1/2 inch thick rounds and separate into rings, discarding the smallest center rings. Place the remaining 1/4 c. flour or masa in a Ziploc, then add onions and shake to coat. Using one onion ring at a time, dip in buttermilk mixture, then coat evenly in potato chips and place on cookie sheet. When all rings are coated, spray evening with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes until crisp and season with salt to taste.
* In 2006, Hackney’s onion rings were named one of the top three in the United States by Restaurant Management magazine. Don’t take my word for it!