Chef Jeff took some kid-friendly favorites and combined them to create an appetizing meal any fussy eater would appreciate. Turkey 'Jovan' is named after one of his childhood friends to whom he had asked the question: "What types of foods do your kids eat?" (Well, besides cookies, ice cream, and candy!) The response was, turkey, macaroni and cheese, ketchup, and little to no vegetables. Pretty typical, right?
I always tease Chef Jeff about giving him a 'mystery box' challenge - to see if he can come up with a recipe using some very different ingredients that's actually good. Well, when given these palette preferences, he came up with a new twist on meatloaf that's family friendly.
I've seen stuffed meatloaf recipes before - stuffed with just cheese, traditional bread-based stuffing, or vegetables like spinach... but I haven't come across one that puts the side dish, on the inside like this.
Oh, and the bonus: you get to hide bits of bell pepper, minced onion, and a small amount of carrot in the meatloaf, which add flavor, but no one will ever know! They will be too focused on the cheesy goodness inside, and the zesty sauce created by the ketchup, on the outside! If you want to serve up something on the side, a green vegetable like asparagus or broccoli creates a colorful contrast and a complementary plating option.
Ingredients for Meatloaf:
1 lb. ground turkey (you can also substitute meatloaf mix - which is 1/3 ground pork, 1/3 ground beef, 1/3 ground veal; or use ground beef)
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper (or approximately 1/2 red bell pepper)
1/4 cup minced carrot (or approximately 1/2 carrot)
1/4 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs
1/2 cup minced onion (or approximately 1 small onion)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter (cut in to small pieces)
1 handful fresh cut parsley, minced, with 1 tsp. set aside for garnish
1 cup ketchup (approximately)
1/4 cup minced fresh mushrooms (optional) TheLadyinRed added this because she loves mushrooms. If you don't like them, leave them out! But any opportunity to add some undetectable veggies to a meatloaf, when it comes to kids is also an opportunity not to be missed!)
Ingredients for Macaroni and Cheese:
1 cup dried, uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
one more 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup milk
Instructions for Macaroni and Cheese Stuffing:
1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the noodles. This may sound weird, but COOK THE NOODLES FOR 3 MINUTES AND 3 MINUTES ONLY! Trust us!
This is VERY important, otherwise you will have mushy noodles in the final product and you will have more like paste instead of macaroni in the middle of your meatloaf.
2. After 3 minutes, drain the noodles into a colander and let them sit there chilling out.
3. In the saucepan you just used to boil the macaroni (because we LOVE less dirty dishes!), add the 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
4. Stir the cheeses and milk over medium heat for about 7 minutes until everything melts. Be patient. It will melt into an ooey, gooey awesome cheese sauce - we swear!
5. Once everything has combined and melted, add the noodles back to the pot with the cheese and lower the heat to medium-low. Stir the noodles until they are covered with the cheese sauce. Turn the heat off, and cover the pot. There- the mac 'n cheese part is done!
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(Keep this method in mind for making a less processed quick version of mac 'n cheese in the future - but if you are not making this recipe, cook the noodles longer until they are al dente. You can experiment with adding more cheeses like mozzarella, American, and even a touch of mascarpone when preparing a stand-alone side dish. But for now, the strong flavors of the cheddar and Parmesan will work best with the Turkey Jovan.)
Instructions for assembling the Turkey Jovan:
6. While the mac 'n cheese is cooling, mince all of the vegetables into the smallest pieces possible without cutting your fingers into the smallest pieces possible. ;)
7. Preheat the oven to 350°.
8. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the minced vegetables, 1 egg (beaten), 1 lb. ground turkey, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Mix it using your hands.
(If you don't want to your hands all messy, enlist one of the kids, or borrow someone else's kid, and have them mush it all together. TheLadyinRed's daughter says mushing meatloaf mix with her hands gets rid of her stress! Hah! Well, whatever works for an 8 year old's stress!)
9. Mix in 1/4 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs, and 2 Tbsp. of ice cold butter, cut into tiny pieces.
Adding the butter ads back moisture to the meat as it bakes. Turkey is very low fat by nature. You don't want dried out meatloaf. By adding in butter, this will guarantee that the end result is juicy.
10. On a sheet of waxed paper (or plastic wrap), spread out the turkey mixture into a large, flat rectangle. The flatter and larger, the better. Aim for 9" x 7" if possible - or larger.
11. By now the mac 'n cheese has cooled. Fill the center of the turkey rectangle with mac 'n cheese piled about 2" high and about 2" wide, leaving about 1/2" space at the top and bottom. (You might have a little mac 'n cheese leftover that doesn't fit inside the meatloaf. This is ok and makes for great additional mac 'n cheese served on the side, or a leftover portion for another time.)
12. Pulling up on one side of the waxed paper, or plastic wrap, fold the turkey over to just cover the mac 'n cheese.
13. Pull up on the other side of the waxed paper, and fold it over so the other part of the turkey rectangle overlaps the turkey roll in the center.
14. In a 9" x 6" baking dish (or larger), coat the bottom and sides generously with ketchup. The ketchup will serve as your tangy meatloaf gravy, so don't skimp! TheLadyinRed recommends using approximately 3/4 cup of ketchup for this step.
15. Gently place the folder and molded meatloaf in the baking dish. Coat the top of the loaf with more ketchup, estimating about 1/4 cup or more.
16. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes, remove the foil and increase oven temperature to 425°. Bake for 15 more minutes.
17. Remove the meatloaf from the oven, recover with foil, and let it stand for 15 minutes. The resting period is important so you will be able to cut slices that don't fall apart.
18. Garnish each slice of meatloaf with additional minced parsley, if desired.
Serves 4 - 5 people.