Old-School Meatloaf Is the Star of MacKenzie Smith’s Sunday Family Dinner

updated Jul 25, 2023
My Mom's Cast Iron Meatloaf

Pair this quick and easy meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans for a complete meal.

Serves4

Prep10 minutes

Cook1 hour

Jump to Recipe
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meatloaf in a cast iron pot on a table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie De Luca

The following interview was conducted during the COVID pandemic.

If there’s one thing food blogger, cookbook author, and chef MacKenzie Smith hold onto is a regular Sunday dinner with her family.

Based in picturesque New Smyrna Beach, Florida, the Smith family owns and operates the Black Dolphin Inn, a boutique bed-and-breakfast. In 2021, when the pandemic hit, MacKenzie and her mom both cook at the inn (among other jobs), her dad is the general manager, and her brother is the assistant manager. So we’re talking with MacKenzie about her family’s Sunday dinners and her mom’s meatloaf recipe, below.

Rounding out the pod is MacKenzie’s husband, Jeremy (a professional surfer and stay-at-home dad to their adorable daughter, Poppy), and also MacKenzie’s brother’s fiancée. The Smith crew spends plenty of time together on a daily basis, but they’ve made it a priority to carve out time on Sundays for a leisurely dinner that reminds them that they’re a family, not just a family business.

As part of our Sunday Cooking series, I caught up with MacKenzie to chat about comfort food, family time, and her inability to cook small portions of food.

Okay, let’s just jump right in: What does Sunday cooking mean to you?
Sunday cooking means family time. We have an unwritten rule in our family that every Sunday night is dedicated to dinner at my parents’ house. And we just make a big feast. We all bring something and we show up at like 5 o’clock and we normally just cook together and hang out and then do a big dog walk.

Sometimes we even get together earlier and go to the beach. We all work together, so it’s important for us to spend time not working. Sundays are the one time where we’re all together during the week where everyone is off from the hotel. It’s a time for us to reconnect as a family instead of a family business unit.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie De Luca

What kind of food is usually on the menu?
We’re big eaters, so there’s lots of comfort food. I’d say the most common theme is Southern food because we’re Southern and that’s what my mom always cooks and how she grew up. So there’s lots of Southern influence, but sometimes we do Chinese night or Mexican night. We like to switch things up. But the food is always hearty. And we always make a joke that like none of us know how to cook for like four people. Because every time we cook, it’s enough for everyone to bring home leftovers, have lunch for the next day or dinner or whatever. There’s lots of food. Always a ton. Way too much.

You’re used to cooking for the hotel guests, so it makes sense that you can’t cook small.
It’s so true. I don’t know how to do it. Luckily we have lots of adopted family members on our street who will gladly take leftovers, or my failed recipe attempts.

So is this Sunday dinner tradition similar to what you grew up with, or has it changed over the years?
Yeah, it’s actually really funny. We always did this growing up — on Sunday you just knew to be home. And then when I moved back to Florida several years ago, everyone was working at the hotel all the time and we just started noticing that we never had time together. So we literally hired another person so that we could do a Sunday family night.

Oh, I love that.
Yeah. So it felt really awesome to bring it back. And what’s even funnier is — I didn’t even realize I did this until recently — I always had Sunday dinners at my apartment in Brooklyn. I would invite friends over and we’d watch Game of Thrones or Curb Your Enthusiasm or whatever show was on at the time. So I was keeping the tradition alive, even with my adopted Brooklyn family. And the menu back then was always me testing out new recipes for either the blog or for my catering jobs. So I was always like, “You all eat this and tell me what you think.”

Are there go-to recipes at your Sunday dinners these days?
Yeah. So my mom has been making this meatloaf my whole life, so I’ve grown up with that recipe. When I started dating Jeremy and he started coming to family dinners, he became obsessed with my mom’s meatloaf. And it started to become this joke where he likes my mom’s food better than mine. So as part of his wedding vows, thanks to the meatloaf, he said, “I promise to like your food more than your mom’s.” And so it’s just been this joke. But it’s not really a joke.

That’s hilarious. What makes this meatloaf so memorable?
It’s just a solid, old-school meatloaf recipe. She does use oats, which I like, and there’s Trader Joe’s Sriracha Barbecue Sauce, which is kind of like a magic ingredient. That stuff’s just so good. And she always cooks it in my Mimi’s (my mom’s mom) cast iron skillet and then cuts it into pie slices, so it’s not like the normal loaf shape.

And as the founder of Grilled Cheese Social, I assume you often bring some sort of cheese-related dish to the party?
You know it. Mac and cheese is a staple dish. Back when my blog was all grilled cheese recipes, the only thing that I shared besides grilled cheese was mac and cheese — and those recipes were always very popular. Because of that I started deep diving into the world of mac and cheese and I came up with a smoked Gouda mac and cheese that everyone really liked. You can either use

smoked cheeses

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie De Luca

How do you know if you’re getting a good smoked cheese?
You should look for cheeses with a smoke ring on the outside, just like you would see in a smoked meat. Some high-quality smoked cheeses also have grate marks from sitting in the smoker. You just want to make sure that the cheese has been cold smoked rather than just having smoke flavoring added to it.

So back to Sunday dinners. Is there any kind of ritual to the meal?
It all starts on Monday morning, when my mom starts planning the menu on our family text. It’s so funny. She’s like, “All right, so what are we going to do this Sunday?” And I’m like, “Just chill. We’ll figure it out.” When Sunday comes, I’ll start cooking in the morning just so I have things prepped so that we can go to the beach or whatever during the day. But we normally get together at 5 o’clock and then we always eat at 6 o’clock.

The meal is very freestyle and casual. We don’t set the table. All the food is set out buffet-style. We all live right next to the beach and I live across the street from my parents, so after we eat we’ll take the dogs for a walk and end up at the beach. Getting outside for some fresh air is like a nice little nightcap before everyone goes home.

Credit: Christian Torres
Grilled Cheese Social book cover

Thank you, MacKenzie! For more recipes like the meatloaf and smoked mac and cheese (below), be sure to check out the Grilled Cheese Social blog or pick up a copy of MacKenzie’s cookbook.


My Mom's Cast Iron Meatloaf

Pair this quick and easy meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans for a complete meal.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds

    ground beef

  • 1/2 cup

    old fashioned oats

  • 1/4 cup

    ketchup, plus more for drizzle

  • 1/2 cup

    spicy bbq sauce (we use Trader Joe's sriracha bbq), plus more for serving

  • 1 tablespoon

    yellow mustard

  • 1

    egg

  • 1 cup

    finely diced onion

  • 1 clove

    garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon

    salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees.

  2. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix by hand. Try not to overmix otherwise you will get tough meatloaf. Once everything looks combined, add it to a greased 10" cast iron skillet, bread pan, or shaped into a loaf in another oven safe dish.

  3. Pat the loaf into shape and add a drizzle of ketchup on top.

  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center reaches 160-165°F degrees.

  5. Drain the grease and broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until the ketchup is caramelized on top.

  6. Serve with more spicy barbecue if desired!

Recipe Notes

If you don't use a 10" cast iron, just make sure that you adjust the cooking time. The meatloaf will be ready when the center reaches 165°F degrees. You can bake it in any oven safe dish. 

Recipe originally published on MacKenzie Smith's blog, Grilled Cheese Social.

Smoked Mac and Cheese

Using a combination of two smoked cheeses — gouda and cheddar — plus a garlic béchamel results in one seriously rich and creamy mac and cheese.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente

  • 3 tablespoons

    salted butter

  • 5 cloves

    garlic, finely diced

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons

    flour

  • 1 cup

    milk

  • 2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 cups

    shredded smoked gouda cheese, such as Red Apple

  • 1 1/2 cups

    shredded smoked cheddar cheese, such as Red Apple, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    Frank's RedHot sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    yellow mustard

  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until softened but not browned.

  2. Whisk in flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes or until the flour taste has cooked out. Whisk in milk, then let simmer until thick. Slowly add in heavy cream then turn the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until sauce has thickened and has slightly reduced.

  3. Now whisk gouda cheese, little by little. Once it’s melted, whisk in half the cheddar and continue to stir until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Be sure to reserve the other half of cheddar. Stir in the the hot sauce, mustard, 1/2 tsp salt and stir. Season with more salt if needed.

  4. Mix in the pasta and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with the remaining smoked cheddar and place under the broiler for 7 to 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from broiler and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Although it’s already quite smokey at this point, If you’d like to put it in the smoker, preheat your smoker to 225°F using apple wood. Once the mac and cheese is prepared simply place it in the smoker uncovered for 30-40 minutes and close the lid. Since you’re using smoked cheeses to begin with, you won’t want to have it in much longer than this or else it will be overwhelmingly smokey and dry.

Recipe originally published on MacKenzie Smith's blog, Grilled Cheese Social.