What’s for dinner? Turkey Meat Loaf With Mashed Potatoes

I have always been a fan of turkey meatloaf — and of cramming it full of secret vegetables. Not like I’m Jessica Seinfeld (or that other woman who claimed she did it first), trying to trick kids into eating things that are good for them. My principle was more about: Well, if it fits, and it’s healthy, why not? So I’ve added shredded carrots, chopped zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, oats … all with pretty good results. (The only less-than-thrilling addition was the zucchini, with its excess soggy-moisture quotient.) But this iteration is one for the books …

Turkey Meat Loaf With Mashed Potatoes, from Real Simple, February 2009

Turkey Meat Loaf With Mashed Potatoes, from Real Simple, February 2009

I know, meatloaf looks gross when it’s raw. Some of my friends can’t even make it because they can’t stand to mix the ingredients, whereas I jump in with both hands, squishing it between my fingers like a kid in mud.

But this doesn’t look like mud. It looks downright swampy — glistening disturbingly and way too much green going on: four cups of spinach and another of parsley, plus an entire onion. Proportionately speaking, there is not a lot of turkey in this meatloaf.

When I do as instructed and form it into a loaf on a baking sheet — that’s right, I’m baking a loaf! — it is a big pile of emerald leaves, with precious little appearing to bind it together. Usually the precooked mixture looks  … well, meatier. I wonder if this even counts as a meatloaf, or if it will even hold together in the oven. I know that the spinach will wilt and implode into a fraction of its former volume, but where’s the beef? Or, in this case, turkey?

Cost of ingredients: $5.80 plus tax. Deceptive pricing alert: I already had the ground turkey in the freezer, and also had the bread crumbs, mustard, salt and pepper, olive oil, marinara and ketchup on hand.

Substitutions: I finally found a use for one of the foul-tasting gluten-free breads we have been trying and quickly discarding: breadcrumbs. In this case, they are kind of a binder, and if all goes well should be sopping up some — turkey flavor? mustard? — so the bread’s odd crumbly texture should not be an issue, but a boon. Near the end of the baking period, I added the leftover Parmesan Reggiano cheese from last night’s dish. And I also used plain yogurt instead of buttermilk in the mashed potatoes.

As easy as they said? Except for having to rinse the spinach to get rid of that grit, yes. Meatloaf is by nature easy to assemble, although I am more acclimated to putting it in a loaf pan, rather than trying to mold something on a baking sheet. (A foil-lined baking sheet, of course.)

What it really looks like.

What it really looks like. (Yes, cooked.)

How’d THAT go over? Let’s put it this way: When Mr. Brooks walked into the kitchen and saw the “loaf” sitting on the baking sheet, he said, “What the hell is that?” In terms of appearance, the finished product looks significantly less browned than the picture at top– in fact, as you can see from the photo at left, it looks an awful lot like underdone scrambled egg whites packed with lots of greens and vegetables.  (The stuff up top that actually has a “cooked” look? That would be the cheese, which I sprinkled on with 5 minutes to go.) I suspect the food stylists used their entire “1/4 cup of ketchup” to glaze the sides of the two slices pictured at top — and then roasted those slices all by themselves, maybe even in a convection oven, so they looked more roasted, less flaccid. This would only be a contender as a main dish if the title of the show was “Dining in the Dark” instead of “Dating in the Dark.” To fully experience this dish, please go here and hit the “play” button.

Would I make it again? No way. This mess belongs on FAIL Blog. Why they wouldn’t think about adding the marinara so it could infuse flavor while the dish cooked — instead of meting out a miserly 1/4 cup total over six portions before serving — is beyond me.  (Which, by the way, makes you open a jar of marinara to use just a quarter-cup.  Brilliant idea, Real Simple.  Boo!)  Halfway through the miserable meal, I mashed it all up with the potatoes — which made it taste better.  So that’s how I packaged the leftovers, which I suspect will end up growing old, unloved, in the back of the refrigerator until I put them out of their misery and into the trash.

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