The best Emmy Awards party food? A homemade TV dinner, of course

A from-scratch TV dinner? Yes, please.
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

If you’re watching the Emmy Awards on Sunday, you and your friends are going to need something to eat. Obviously, it should be a TV dinner. Not one from the freezer aisle, but one made from scratch in your kitchen. This one will taste like your childhood, but better.
All the components in supermarket TV dinners are already fully cooked — you’re just reheating them — imparting a twice-cooked freezer-burn aroma. Here, whole ingredients go into dishes that feel nostalgic but taste fresh.
After you prep the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and brownies, starting one dish while finishing another, you bake them all at the same time.
You can pop the trays into the oven and forget about them until it’s time for everyone to eat their four-course meal from the couch.
Then when the show’s over, just toss the trays in the recycling bin.

Just fill the trays and bake!
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Homemade TV Dinner

1 hour. Serves 6.

Classic TV dinner dishes taste better when made fresh. Parsley brings a bright green flavor to meatloaf, which is bolstered by the savory intensity of fried onions. Mashed Russet potatoes are as creamy as ever, but bits of skin give it an earthy depth. Swapping thick green beans for thinner haricots verts, which often come trimmed, results in beans that are tender but not floppy. In prefab frozen trays, the brownies taste like chocolate cake, so I’ve embraced that ethos here with a dessert that’s as fudgy as a brownie but airy like cake. You can buy the aluminum trays online here or at restaurant supply stores or warehouse stores.Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds Russet potatoes (about 2 extra-large), scrubbed and cut into 2-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup whole milk
8 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut in tablespoons


Brownie Cake
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs, room temperature

Green Beans
12 ounces haricots verts, stem ends trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup crispy fried onions, such as French’s, crushed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more
5 tablespoons ketchup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds ground beef (80/20)

1. Purchase six disposable aluminum four-compartment TV dinner trays (9 ½ by 7 ½ by 1 ¾ inches with 30 ounces total capacity). Each should have two small square compartments, one narrow oblong compartment and one large rectangular compartment. If you can fit all six trays on one oven rack, position a rack at the top. Otherwise, position your racks in the top and bottom positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat one of the small square compartments of each aluminum tray pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Start with the mashed potatoes: Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add 1 tablespoon salt and enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then continue boiling until a paring knife slides through very easily, about 20 minutes.

3. While the potatoes boil, mix the brownie cake batter: Put the chocolate chips in a large saucepan and set over low heat. When they look soft and melty, gently stir with a whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk. While whisking, add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the greased compartments in the trays.

4. When the potatoes are tender, drain well, then return to the saucepan. Let sit in the hot saucepan for a few minutes to dry out the potatoes, then mash until broken into fluffy bits. Add the milk and continue mashing until smooth. Add the butter one piece at a time, folding gently after each addition to incorporate. Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper, then divide evenly among the other small square compartments in the trays.

5. Prepare the green beans: In a bowl, toss the haricots verts with the oil and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Divide evenly among the oblong compartments of the trays.

6. Make the meatloaf: Combine the bread crumbs, fried onions, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, egg, parsley, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed, then break up the beef into smaller chunks as you add it to the bowl. Mix and fold the beef gently with your hand until evenly incorporated. Divide the mixture into 6 even portions, then pat each into a mini 1-inch-thick meatloaf that fits in the large compartments in the trays. Divide and brush the remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup on the tops of the loaves.

7. Put all the trays on the top rack or divide between the top and bottom rack as needed. Bake until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, the potatoes have browned spots on top, the green beans are tender and a cake tester inserted in the centers of the cakes comes out clean, 20 to 23 minutes.

8. Garnish the meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans with the remaining parsley. Serve hot.

Make ahead:
You can prep the meatloaf mix, green beans and brownie batter in advance, and cook the mashed potatoes and refrigerate the components for up to one day in separate airtight containers. Fill the trays with the components as above and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Want to save them for the future? You can fully bake the meals, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month. Unwrap, cover the top tightly with foil and bake directly from the freezer for 30 to 35 minutes.