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Phoenicia Diner Recipe: Mini Herbed Meatloaves

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Mini herbed meatloaves served with wax beans and fennel with dill
  • Mini herbed meatloaves served with wax beans and fennel with dill

Editor's Note: When putting the April issue together, our original idea here was to feature Mike Cioffi's two eateries—the Phoenicia Diner and Dixon Roadside (in Bearsville)—in a dual profile, comparing and contrasting the comfort food styles at these palaces of retro dining. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and widespread restaurant closures, the two eateries have laid off most of their staffs and have pivoted to takeout. #Coronoaviruslife. Until we can dine in again, here's a recipe from The Phoenicia Diner Cookbook, published in early March by Clarkson Potter.

In addition to proper seasoning, a good panade—simply a mixture of milk and dry bread (usually stale bread or breadcrumbs)—is the key to good meatloaf. The wet bread mixture helps thicken the meatloaf mixture while keeping the meat tender and moist during baking. We prefer dried herbs in sausages, meatloaf, meatballs, and the like—the flavor is punchier and seasons the meat more consistently throughout.

A couple of tips to save your meatloaf before it's too late: Crack your eggs into a seprate bowl before adding them to your meat mixture. By that point in the process, you've put a lot of your ingredients (including meat, which doesn't come cheap) into a single mixing bowl. This is not the moment you want to discover you've got a bad egg and have to toss everything to start again.

If you're trying to get a jump on dinner, you can form these meatloaves the night or morning before you plan to eat them. Just cover the shaped loaves loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're a little over an hour from mealtime. Make sure you allow time to fully preheat your oven before baking the loaves.

Serve with a side of your choice, such as mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, or wax beans.


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1½ pounds ground beef (80% lean)
  • 2 tablespoons
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, then season with the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Reduce the heat down to medium-low, and give everything a stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally to keep the onion from browning, until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for at least 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, panko, cooled onion (set the oily skillet aside; you'll need it again), and eggs and stir together. The mixture will be the texture of loose cornbread batter—this is your panade.

To the milk-panko mixture, add the pork and beef and combine using your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and mustard and continue mixing, working along the sides of the bowl to fold the meat over itself and back into the mixture, until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be loose and quite wet but will hold its shape in the bowl.

Reheat the skillet over high heat. When a droplet of water sizzles and disappears, it's hot enough for cooking. Pat a large pinch (about 1 tablespoon) of the meatloaf mixture into a small patty (this is a mini tester patty) and lay it in the pan, cooking until brown and crusty, 1 or 2 minutes per side. Taste the meatloaf for seasoning, adding more salt as needed.

Line a rimmed baking sheet or a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil.

Divide the meat into 6 equal portions (about a heaping ¾ cup each). Using damp hands, pat each portion into an oval about 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide, pressing down gently on the top to make the shape of a small slightly deflated football. Lay the meatloaf on the foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining meat until you have 6 small loaves, spacing them evenly across the pan. (If you find yourself with a bit of extra meat, make one more loaf.)

Slide the baking sheet into the fridge and chill, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes, or overnight. (You want the meat to be cold when it goes into the oven so that it retains more of its moisture.)

While the meatloaves are chilling, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the pan with the loaves from the fridge and slide it directly into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees and cook until the loaves bounce back to a gentle touch and have become russetty brown on top and deeper brown around the bases (where the loaves will have given off some fat), about 25 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool on their baking sheet. (The meatloaf will continue to cook a bit as it sits; don't be tempted to continue cooking in the oven.) Let rest 10 to 15 minutes on the baking sheet so the loaves can firm up a bit before serving.

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