Gochujang-glazed Turkey Meatloaf Paninis
I've never been a big meatloaf guy, and even after doing multiple recipes that I do really like, they still aren't ones that I ever return to. However, a couple years back I turned some leftover meatloaf into paninis that I really loved, and I've been waiting to do that again. So I was a little fearful when my guest list ballooned at a Meatwave this past fall where I planned on serving meatloaf, worried that I had so many people coming that leftovers would not be a thing, and my panini plans would falter. Luckily, I had just the right amount left for sandwiches once the crowd thinned, so I snuck it away in the fridge, and a few days later it became this great turkey meatloaf panini.
The meatloaf I had made was finished with a spicy and sweet gochujang-based glaze, and I had seasoned the turkey mixture accordingly with a lot of garlic, ginger, and scallions. With a Korean influence already heavily embedded in the meatloaf, I kept going in that direction with these paninis.
That mainly was done by way of the sauce, which I opted for a kimchi mayo. This is merely kimchi and mayonnaise pulsed together in a food processor, but the kimchi has so much savory and spicy flavor, that it churns out an incredibly complex sauce with only two ingredients and minimal work.
Once I had the mayo done, I slathered it on both sides of a portion of a sliced ciabatta loaf, took all my prepped ingredients outdoors, and got the grill fired up. Once the charcoal was all lit, I arranged the coals on one side of the coal grate to form a two-zone fire. Then my two handy cast iron presses went directly over the fire to preheat.
With the available space remaining over the coals, I placed the cold leftover meatloaf on and cooked the slices just until they warmed slightly and developed light grill marks. Since turkey is prone to drying out easily, and because it was already cooked once before, I really didn't want to grill it too long to avoid overcooking and making the paninis less than all they could be.
Once the meatloaf was done, I placed two slices each on the bottom halves of the bread and topped them with mozzarella cheese and arugula. This is the topping combo of my all-time favorite panini from Il Bambino in Astoria, Queens, so wanted to emulate something I already knew I loved so much.
Then the assembled sandwiches went on the grill, placed near, but not directly over, the fire. Wearing my trusty welding gloves, I carefully placed each press on top and gave them a good press to start the compaction process. I covered the grill next and let the sandwiches cook until the cheese was fully melted, the bread was crisp, and the entire thing was about as flat as it was going to get.
As I has hoped, I had another meatloaf panini winner on my hands. The turkey did not hold up quite as well to being recooked as the traditional meatloaf did, but the flavor was all there, and any loss of moisture was balanced out by the large amount of kimchi mayo I had placed on both sides of the bread. That ensured that there was a ton of flavor, with the fermented funk of the kimchi melding well with the slightly sharp bite of the meatloaf itself, and those two heavy hitters being tempered a bit by the creamy mozzarella. I waffled back and forth between arugula and cabbage as the choice green, and while cabbage would have had more of a crunch, it would have been no match for the peppery nature of arugula, which tasted at home with all the other ingredients. Since we're in post-Thanksgiving times now, I also must say this a pretty next-level leftover meal, one that may just warrant a gochujang-glazed turkey meatloaf to graze your holiday table just to have an excuse to make these paninis in the following days.
Gochujang-glazed Turkey Meatloaf Paninis
- Yield 4 servings
- For the Kimchi Mayonnaise
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup kimchi
- For the Paninis
- 8 1/2-inch thick slices leftover turkey meatloaf, preferably gochujang-glazed turkey meatloaf
- 4 ciabatta rolls, split in half horizontally
- 3 oz arugula, washed and dried
- 6 oz low-moisture mozzarella cheese, grated
- To make the kimchi mayonnaise: Place mayonnaise and kimchi in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse until kimchi is finely chopped and well combined with the mayonnaise. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the paninis: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cast iron panini presses or foil-wrapped bricks on hot side of grill. Place meatloaf slices on hot side of grill and cook until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer meatloaf to a cutting board or plate.
- Spread kimchi mayo on cut side of each roll. Place 2 meatloaf slices on each bottom half of each roll followed by a handfuls of cheese and arugula. Working in batches as necessary, place sandwiches close to, but not directly over, the fire. Place panini presses or bricks on top of sandwiches, cover grill, and cook until sandwiches are heated through and well compressed, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to a plate, cut into two pieces, and serve immediately.