my kitchen

tv dinner redux

April 10, 2012

I was in Harvard Square at Black Ink and came across a set of sea foam green TV dinner plates–I had to have them.  Ahhh the memories…

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and a Saturday night meant: The parents went out leaving us with CHiPs, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, TV dinners and one glass bottle of Pepsi. Trust me, we fucking loved every compartment of this glorious evening.

I was trying to remember if my rose-colored memory was making up this specific Saturday night line up–I am ashamed to say after some research not only was this line up indeed a full Saturday night, but required one switch over from NBC to ABC. You know… by turning the dial.

My favorite TV dinner was Salisbury Steak. (?) I had a strange palette for a child… in fact, my mom recently recounted how when we made trips to Poppin’ Fresh Pies everyone would order pie except me. I would order vegetable soup. “Actually if you could tell the Poppin’ Chef to prepare my pasta al dente that would be fabulous, oh and… make sure that Shirley Temple is with a twist, no olive.”

TV dinners back in the day were always frozen, always in aluminum foil compartmentalized trays and took about six hours to heat up. (This was before the rise of the microwave oven.) The basic TV dinner had a protein, a starch, a vegetable and a dessert.

I decided I needed to recreate this feast with my newly acquired sea foam TV trays. Naturally, I wanted to stick with the classic I so cherished as a wee lad, but altered just slightly.


I ended up making a damn near close version of Salisbury Steak using a similar recipe to my panko breaded turkey burgers. For the gravy, I made a porcini mushroom sauce that was fantastic. In short, soaked some dried porcini mushrooms at room temperature, started a roux in a small sauce pan, added the mushroom tea, chopped and sautéed the rehydrated porcini mushrooms with minced shallots, added to the roux+mushroom tea, whisked over medium-high heat until thickened. So, delicious.

Mashed potatoes also very simple, basic yukon golds, added parmesan and fried leeks.

Corn unfortunately is out of season so I had to settle for frozen which is just as well. I mean, there had to be at least one frozen component.

And last, an apple crisp. I had never made one before, but this was super easy (which anyone will tell you thereby making you feel much less proud when you pull it out of the oven and it looks fantastic and tastes even better).

If you want my recipe ask, I didn’t really have one so I just kind of made it up. Sorry… feeling kind of lazy, and I am sure there are a thousand recipes out there.

Last, I opted for a few rocks and some Makers; although I did shoot the tray with one of Trader Joe’s Vintage Sodas (that I designed awhile back, I know… shameless self-promotion).

Not the most photographable food in the world, but hey… it’s a TV dinner.

At some point my parents would return home. My mom would come into my bedroom to kiss my forehead and whisper goodnight. I remember she would have a very specific smell… I didn’t know what it was then, but now I can imagine it was a disco inferno of wine, smoke and perfumed polyester.


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  • Avatar
    Reply Robere April 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Awesome re-creation. And you obviously have a better memory than I, but what and where was Poppin Fresh pies? Doesn’t ring a bell.
    BTW, I do remember MY PARENTS buying Swanson TV Dinners way back in the 50’s. The fried chicken was my favorite. And then we hung the washed aluminum trays in the cherry trees to try and thwart the robins who would feast on the fruit every June.

  • Avatar
    Reply mamoo April 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    very funny

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