Love From the Lunchroom

Potato Turbate

December 14, 2016

Since I ran the recipe for this Pinellas County, FL school cafeteria lunchroom favorite, I’ve heard from more than a dozen readers who fondly remember the dish. Susant T., who attended Starkey Elementary in Pinellas County, FL, in the early 1960s, asked for it first, so Susan: know that you have a lot of grateful cohorts who appreciate your request. Cafeteria-hot-dish-wise, potato turbate is basically a stripped-down version of shepherds pie ( seasoned ground beef baked under a thick layer of whipped (turbated?) potatoes. “That 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. While earliest versions of the turbate were sans vegetables, the recipe was updated a few decades ago to include some onion, carrot and celery.

Potato Turbate
Serves 10
With love from the lunchroom of Pinellas County, FL school district, potato turbate is a simple beef/gravy/veggie shepherd's pie. Easy to make & comfort food for sure, it's a kid favorite.
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  1. Meat and Vegetable Filling Ingredients
  2. 3 pounds ground beef (chuck)
  3. 2 ribs celery, diced
  4. 1 small onion, chopped
  5. 1 cup fresh, shredded carrots
  6. ¼ cup whole wheat flour (NOTE: regular unbleached white flour is okay, too)
  7. 2, .87-ounce packages powdered brown gravy mix (McCormick brand is fine)
  8. 1 2/3 cups beef stock
  9. 1 tsp granulated garlic
  10. Fresh cracked black pepper and salt, to taste
  11. 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  12. Sprinkle of Worchestershire sauce
  13. Whipped Potatoes Ingredients
  14. 3 cups instant mashed potatoes
  15. To brush on before baking
  16. 2 Tbsp. margarine, or butter, melted
  17. Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In saute pan, brown ground beef. In microwave, combine raw vegetables with 2 Tbsp water; cover and microwave-steam vegetables until tender; about 5 minutes. Drain fat from ground beef. Combine vegetables with beef; sprinkle with flour and seasonings. Stir combine. Stir in powdered beef gravy mix. Add stock. Simmer five minutes until thickened. Spread layer of beef mixture in bottom of 9 x 13 baking pan. Prepared mashed potatoes as directed on package (Choose the method on the box that includes milk and butter). Spread 1/2 of the whipped potatoes over beef. Using a pastry piping bag, top the potatoes with piped potato for more decorative look. Brush top with melted butter; dust lightly with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly brown on top (about 30 minutes.)
Adapted from MKRogers
Adapted from MKRogers
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  • Reply Teresa Starling Culpepper August 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Loved the Potato Turbate. Does anyone know the recipe for the hamburger buns served at Lealman Jr. High in Pinellas County back in the 60’s?

  • Reply Mark August 15, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Monica, thanks for this stroll down memory lane! As a Pinellas County schools kid in the 1980s (Ponce de Leon Elem.) I fondly remember Potato Turbate.

    There’s one particular lunch item I, we, all adored and would to get our hands on: Mexican pizza! The kind we had was shaped like a hexagon, with dark orange cheese and a spicy beef sauce. Pretty simple but oh so good. Any leads? Perhaps Dolores McCoy could be of help?

    Thanks again!
    Mark H.

    • Reply Monica Rogers September 2, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      🙂 Wowee! I’ll look into it. Thanks, Mark!

    • Reply Lisa March 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Oh my goodness. I lived in pinellis county Florida 43 years ago , and remember this favorite lunchroom meal. We lived in Madeira Beach and were bussed to a school about a half hour away. I always remembered how much I enjoyed this lunch. Thank you
      How I irononic that it was a school lunch favorite and that it was from pinellas county. Lol

  • Reply Melanie M Hernandez January 7, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I remember this from Belcher Elementary 90s ! Fav

  • Reply Michael Vozda August 27, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Thanks, I remember the potato turbate being my favorite lunch at SkyCrest elementary school in Clearwater,Fl in the 60s

  • Reply Jennie Wilson December 30, 2018 at 3:11 am

    Favorite lunch of this gal who went to schools in Pinellas in the seventies and eighties! Thank you.

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