For her entire life, my mother made meatloaf in the shape of a heart. I still do. The winning ratio is 2:1 -- two pounds beef to 1 pound onions. But the real secret is the inclusion of ice water, and sometimes an ice cube or two, to keep the meat very juicy and moist. As a teen I had the surprise (or disappointment) of my life when I sat down to a meal in the shape of a...loaf. Apparently my parents had a fight and my mother had no intention of using those romantic hands of hers that day to shape the familiar mixture into a big red heart (which she glazed with a bit of ketchup.) It only happened once, but I never forgot it. My first experience with a meat loaf, instead of a heart, still looms large. In her day, my mother used ground sirloin and 4-C seasoned breadcrumbs. Today, I use a combination of sirloin and chuck (for flavor and increased fat content) and add panko. I also roast halved plum tomatoes alongside the "heart" and then pile them on top before serving. It is very delicious and quite sensuous to sculpt with your hands.
Heart-Shaped Meatloaf with Charred Tomatoes
2 pounds ground beef (a combination of sirloin and chuck) 1 pound onions, finely chopped 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup panko or dried breadcrumbs 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 6 tablespoons ketchup 2 teaspoons sriracha 1 clove garlic 1 egg yolk 1 tablespoon best-quality dried oregano 6 ripe medium plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise ¼ cup freshly-chopped chives
Preheat oven to 375. Put ground meat in a large bowl. Melt butter in very large skillet. Add onions and ½ teaspoon salt; cook 15 minutes until dark brown; add to bowl. Add panko, mustard, 2 tablespoons ketchup, sriracha, garlic, pushed through a press, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt. Add egg yolk and 1/2 cup ice water and mix well with your hands. Place on rimmed baking sheet; form into a large heart shape. Cover with thin layer of remaining ketchup. Place halved tomatoes, cut side up, around edge of pan; sprinkle with salt. Bake 45 minutes. Turn tomatoes over, arrange on heart and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with chives. Serves 4