big, burly, tattooed exterior is the 5-year-old boy who still likes to cook his mother, Wilma’s, good food — but with a real twist.
After being laid off three years ago from a tile-setting job, Atkinson converted a 1960s 25-foot vintage Airstream-esque trailer into a food truck and named itWilma’s Real Good Food
“Menu ideas can keep me up at night,” says the 43-year-old Peculiar, Mo., resident. “I couldn’t go to sleep until I figured out that bacon is the only thing that could make a doughnut even better — and the pork belly beignet was born.”
Atkinson describes the food he takes to the streets as “French-neck,” an elevated take on what some might think of as “redneck” foods. Atkinson’s fried bologna sandwich is garnished with cucumber aioli, while his “Rednexican” taco features meat from frog legs, candied bacon and ancho mayonnaise.
But there’s also fusion between Asian and familiar Midwestern fare. His bacon-dill pickle rangoons sell for $1 each, while hismeatloaf sliders
, seasoned with sambal, an Asian hot relish, are $5.
“It’s safe to say that this is not my mother’s meatloaf. Our cooking styles are polar opposites: She reads and follows recipes, and I do anything but that,” Atkinson says. “But I get my sense of hospitality from her.”
Sometimes Wilma Atkinson, who lives in Archie, Mo., helps her son out in the food trailer during one of his frequent stops in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District. When she’s not there, patrons still want to get their pictures taken with a caricature of Wilma, designed and painted near the service window by Daniel Bartle, owner ofLucid Arts
in Kansas City.
The other side of the trailer is based on Bartle’s series, “Kansas City’s Original Gangsters.”
Three guys appear to be relishing the moment when they get to kick back and eat: one in repose even looks to be savoring a “Wilma’s” Meatloaf Slider.Wilma’s Real Good Food Meatloaf Sliders Makes 20 sliders 12 tablespoons butter, divided 1 onion, finely minced 4 cloves garlic, finely minced 1 (3-pound) package Angus 93-percent lean ground beef 4 eggs 1 cup bread crumbs 2 tablespoons Indonesian-style sambal (a chili sauce available at Asian supermarkets) 2 tablespoons paprika 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder 1 tablespoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons ground oregano 2 onions, thinly sliced 1 cup mayonnaise 1/3 cup feta cheese 20 slider or mini-Kaiser rolls 1/2 cup butter, melted 60 fresh spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add minced onion and garlic to pan and sauté until onion is soft and translucent, or about 10 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, stir ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, sambal, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, ground oregano, and sautéed onion and garlic until well combined.
Cut a 24-inch-long piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and place on countertop. In the center of the foil sheet, form a long loaf or log of meat mixture, measuring 20 inches long and 4 inches wide. Fold 2-inch borders of aluminum foil over each end of uncooked meatloaf. Fold the length of foil nearest you over uncooked meatloaf then roll meat tightly in the aluminum foil. Make sure meat is well-packed and tightly covered. (You can roll uncooked meatloaf in a second sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil to ensure a tight, secure package.) Place meatloaf diagonally, seam side down, onto a baking sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees when an instant-read meat thermometer is inserted through the foil package. Remove from oven and allow meatloaf to cool before removing from foil. Cut meatloaf into 20 equal slices and set aside.
While meatloaf is cooking, in same sauté pan used for onion and garlic, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add sliced onion and sauté until caramelized a golden brown. Remove from sauté pan and onto a plate; set aside.
Combine mayonnaise and feta cheese in a small mixing bowl; set aside.
To assemble sliders:
Heat a large griddle pan over medium-high heat. Cut slider rolls in half and brush cut sides — the roll’s top and bottom — with melted butter. Toast 5 rolls at a time on griddle.
Meanwhile, in same sauté pan used for vegetables, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat on another burner on stovetop. Place 5 slices of cooked meatloaf into pan and sear on both sides.
When bread is golden brown, smear mayonnaise/feta mixture on roll’s toasted top and bottom. Build the sandwich by placing seared meatloaf onto bottom half of prepared roll. Layer with caramelized onion, 3 spinach leaves and the top half of prepared roll. Continue process for all 5 rolls/meatloaf slices prepared on stovetop. Perform this process 3 more times, until all 20 rolls and meatloaf slices have been prepared. Serve sliders immediately after they have been assembled.
Per slider: 478 calories (68 percent from fat), 36 grams total fat (14 grams saturated), 127 milligrams cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 792 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.