After reading Sarah Green's column last month about a gluten-free Shepherd's pie dish for St. Patrick's Day, I recalled a dish from my childhood that was a staple in our weekly menu at school and home: Potato turbate.
When I asked my co-workers if they had ever had potato turbate, they all looked at me as if I had said a dirty word. I told them it was like Shepherd's pie, but with no veggies, and cheese on top. Of course, you can add vegetables, but that would just make it better for you.
After doing some online research, I discovered that this dish was made popular by the school lunch ladies in central Florida, where I grew up.
People either love it or hate it, from what I can tell. We just ate it about once a week, and that was that.
Apparently, the name for the dish comes from the Italian turbate, which means "upsotten" - the "turvy" part of the phrase "topsy-turvy" comes from the same root. It is supposed to be pronounced "tur-BAH-tay." We call it "turrr-bait."
During a recent trip to Florida, I asked my mother and uncle about it and they fondly remembered the dish.
Mom said we put cheese on top and my uncle said he put mushrooms in it.
We didn't use corn because I was allergic to corn as a child, but mom said she often put peas in it, too.
There are many variations of this dish; the one printed below came from the St. Petersburg Times.
6 servings instant mashed potatoes
1 pound ground beef
3 level tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup beef bouillon
2tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Prepare instant potatoes according to package directions.
Brown ground meat lightly; drain off fat. Add onions and seasoning. Cook 5 minutes longer.
Add flour; mix well with meat mixture. Stir and scrape bottom of pan. Add bouillon to meat and spoon into greased casserole dish.
Spread mashed potatoes over meat. Brush potatoes with melted butter and dust lightly with paprika.
Bake at 400 degrees until brown on top, about 25 minutes.
According to www.lostrecipesfound.com, this dish "is fondly remembered by lots of '50s and '60s-era Florida kids," which would include my mother and uncle.
"In Latin, 'turbate' means to agitate. Cafeteria-hot-dish-wise, potato turbate is a stripped-down version of shepherds pie (i.e. no vegetables) - seasoned ground beef baked between layers of whipped (turbated?) potatoes," the site reported, adding that the "dish is the one we get most requests for when people write in, or do menus for school reunions," says Dolores McCoy, a longtime nutrition education specialist and menu planner for Pinellas County Schools.
As reported on the website, McCoy says school cafeterias still serve Potato Turbate, but updated to include more vegetables. (To see the recipe online, visit www.lostrecipesfound. com/recipes/Pinellas PotatoTurbate.html.)
Here's the original:
Makes 10 servings
1 pound, plus
12 ounces ground beef
3/8 cup onions, ground
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1 cup beef stock, or 1/2 teaspoon beef extract combined with water to make 1 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet (brown meat seasoning), optional
3 cups water
2/3 cup dehydrated
1/4cup dry milk
2/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
Paprika to garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown beef lightly in a saute pan. Drain off and discard fat.
Add onions, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and garlic to pan. Cook 5 minutes.
Mix flour and water and stir into meat. Add beef stock or beef extract combined with water. Add Kitchen Bouquet, if using. Set aside.
Prepare potatoes: Heat water to boiling. Slowly add dry ingredients to hot water. Add butter.
Whip at high speed to desired fluffiness (2 to 3 minutes.) Layer 1/2 of potato mixture into pan. Cover with ground beef mixture.
Top with remaining potatoes. Drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 for 1/2 hour until lightly browned.