Try a new meatloaf sauce

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Meatloaf is the king of comfort food.

And it's also one of those dishes that yield sought-after leftovers. When I mention meatloaf to a friend, she relishes the thought of a leftover meatloaf sandwich.

Today's recipe came about, in part, because I found mini ceramic loaf pans at a local HomeGoods store. They are the perfect size for making individual, but generous meatloaves. They are also ideal if you're trying to pay attention to portion control.

And, I had ground sirloin and hot Italian sausage tucked away in the freezer and wanted to re-create a meatloaf I sampled some time ago at the Kona Grill in Troy, Mich.

I remembered that the recipe had a mix of beef and Italian sausage - a good combination for producing a juicy, tender meatloaf. After searching the Internet, I came up with today's recipe: Mini Meatloaves with Shoyu Cream Sauce.

The meatloaf recipe is fairly basic; what sets it apart is the Shoyu Cream Sauce. It's a simple mixture of heavy whipping cream and soy sauce, brought to a boil and thickened with slurry - a mixture of cornstarch and water. You can substitute regular or reduced-fat whipping cream or fat-free half-and-half.

Shoyu is Japanese sweet soy sauce. At many grocery stores you will find several varieties of soy sauce. Not all soy sauces have the same flavor profile. Some are sweeter; some are darker, and some are slightly thicker. It is a salty condiment, and some brands can be saltier than others. For this recipe, I used Kikkoman reduced-sodium soy sauce.

One technique I learned some time ago when making meatloaf is to saute any vegetables first, so they get nicely caramelized and take on a sweet flavor. If you put the vegetables in raw, they will steam. Also, let the meatloaf rest before slicing. If you slice it right away, it may crumble and likely will be dry.

If you use a hot Italian sausage, the cream sauce will help cool off your taste buds.

Having the right equipment, such as these loaf pans, helps but isn't necessary for this recipe. You can shape the meat into individual loaves and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet with sides.

This recipe makes enough for four generous meatloaves and is hearty enough that you will probably have leftovers. Any leftover meatloaf also can be frozen.

If you're not into cream sauces with meatloaf, an optional glaze is 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup chili sauce and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Mix and spoon it on before baking.

Mini Meatloaves with Shoyu Cream Sauce

Makes: 4. Preparation time: 15 minutes. Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

For this recipe we used 4-by-2-by-11/4-inch deep mini meatloaf pans. But you can make this meatloaf in any size loaf pan. Increase the baking time for larger meatloaves. A standard-size meatloaf will take about 1 hour to cook thoroughly. Adapted from several recipes for Kona Grill's Big Island Meatloaf. Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (any color)

1/2 pound ground sirloin

1/2 pound sweet, mild or hot Italian sausage

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 large egg

2 tablespoons no-salt -added tomato paste

1 teaspoon favorite all-purpose seasoning

1/2 teaspoon black pepperSHOYU CREAM

1 cup heavy whipping cream or low-fat or fat-free half-and-half

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 4 mini meatloaf pans or individual ramekins with a little olive oil. In a skillet, heat the oil with the butter. Add the garlic and saute 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the onions and peppers and saute 5 minutes or until onions are just beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl place the sirloin, sausage, bread crumbs, egg, tomato paste, all-purpose seasoning, black pepper and onion-and-pepper mixture and mix well.

Pack mixture into mini meatloaf pans or ramekins, making sure it's pressed evenly in the pan.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the top is browned and crusty and the internal temperature in the center of the meatloaf is 155 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. While resting, the internal temperature will rise to at least 160 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan combine the cream with the soy sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Per serving: 514 calories (55 percent from fat), 31 grams fat (14 grams saturated fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 1,351 milligrams sodium, 167 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.