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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, May 23

Gapers Block

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The exciting lasagna adventure of last week was such a rousing success (especially with a sweet toddler) that a follow-up lesson was requested. Since winter is the season of comfort food, I was requested to explain how to make one of the truly American dishes. Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes.

But there's a twist. The wife of my student chef doesn't eat red meat. This means that my typical mix of one pound of 90% lean ground beef and a half-pound of ground pork isn't going to work. Ground turkey is the obvious substitute for ground beef, but it's leaner and a less flavorful than ground beef. There's no substitute for ground pork so I had to find a way to introduce moisture and flavor. Thankfully meatloaf was designed for experimentation.

Now what my family calls scalloped potatoes is what many people call potatoes au gratin. Essentially it's thinly sliced potatoes layered in a casserole dish with cheese sauce between the layers. Scalloped potatoes are a bit different.

Since we're using less moist meat we have to add moisture in other ways. The easiest way is to shred some vegetable and mix that in with the meat. One zucchini, or carrot, or even a potato will provide moisture and a bit of flavor, and it's a veggie, so it's good for you. Or you can use some frozen spinach that you've thawed and squeezed and chopped, and your mom will be proud of you for eating your spinach.

Turkey Meatloaf
1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey
1/2 cup of shredded vegetable
3/4 cup bread crumbs, or leftover rice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of ketchup (or slightly less than 1/2 cup of tomato sauce)
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Put into a 4"x4"x8" loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.* Drain the fat from pan and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Yeah that's a big difference, but it really just cooks until it is done. To test if it is done, insert a knife in the middle of the loaf, pull apart gently and peek to make sure it is no longer pink in the middle.

Scalloped Potatoes
1 large clove garlic, either squeezed through a press or minced
1 shallot or small onion minced
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of whipping cream (or you can replace these two items with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and half a can of water or milk)
2 1/2 pounds of potatoes that have been sliced 1/8" thick 4 ounces of Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Saute the first three ingredients over medium heat for two minutes. Add the milk and cream (or soup and water/milk) and mix together. Line the bottom of a greased 9x13-inch casserole dish with about 1/3 of the sliced potatoes. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over top. Repeat for two more layers, being sure to spread the last layer as evenly as possible. Now pour the milk mixture over the potatoes and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

While I enjoy cooking things that require lots of steps and lots of ingredients and love experimenting with new flavors, it's been fun showing a budding cook how to cook some of the basics. It's what this column started out to become, but it's hard remembering what it was like to begin cooking. But I love a challenge so expect to see more of these.

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