Homemade TV Dinner

Time1 hour
YieldsServes 6
TV dinner: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a brownie.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; prop styline by Kate Parisian)
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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 the dish 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 aluminum trays online at Amazon or at restaurant supply stores or warehouse stores.

Mashed Potatoes
Brownie Cake
Green Beans

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.


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


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.


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, 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 to incorporate. Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper, then divide evenly among the other small square compartments.


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.


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 six even portions, then pat each into a 1-inch thick meatloaf that fits in the large compartments. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup on the loaves.


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


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.