Cooking as a group is always more fun than cooking alone. Diluted effort and a more delicious outcome (and shared cleaning responsibilities): infinitely better.
Last Thursday, chickiecc, dpawaters, and I took that to heart as together we prepared a calorie-laden, but delectable meal. Comfort food to fill our stomachs and to fulfill a gluttonous inclination that winter seems to bring on - as though there were a need to prepare ourselves for a period of hibernation. On the menu: a hearty turkey meatloaf with fig gravy, mac & cheese and some steamed broccoli thrown in for good measure. For the meatloaf, we were guided by Barefoot Contessa; the gravy, by the Boston Globe (the paper strangely just happened to run a turkey meatloaf recipe the week we planned on making it); and the mac & cheese, by The New York Times recipe combined with another found online. Recent criticism led us to believe it would be prudent to improvise a bit on the recipe.
We also made minor modifications to the meatloaf recipe (which I think our arteries might thank us for). The recipe called for five pounds - yes, five pounds - of ground turkey (can we say leftovers?). We mixed it up with some ground chicken. We used fat-free chicken broth. We went easy on the ketchup. But nevertheless, the end product was a moist, mouthwateringly flavorful meatloaf.
We all agreed that it didn't even need anything more, but we made the fig gravy out of curiousity. Though we had substituted California figs for the Turkish figs the recipe called for, the reduction, combined with onions and apple juice, was also quite tasty.
While we had originally intended to make the crusty mac & cheese recipe from The Times, the base we used from the other recipe countered that. We had a creamy mixture to hold together the pasta inside our dish and lots of cheese to cover it. The recipe called for grated cheddar and grated American. We took the easy way out with shredded cheddar, but we could not find any American in the supermarket. And in the interest of grocery shopping time, we went with Land O'Lakes cheese product slices - that element was definitely detectable to the tastebuds, but not in a negative way to any of us. So that's just a note for those who might want a more gourmet mac & cheese: use real cheese!
We also spread some grated Parmesan cheese over the top, which added a nice slight crunch. Our impatient stomachs compelled us to pull it out of the oven as soon as it looked melty enough, so perhaps for that reason too we did not achieve ultimate crustiness. But once again, we managed to achieve scrumptious gratification.