Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Comfort Food: Shepherd's Pie

I haven't followed a recipe in months! While I am obsessed with reading cookbooks and food magazines and other blogs, they leave me inspired rather than tied to a shopping list full of requirements. These days, unless I'm participating in a Daring Bakers or Daring Cooks challenge, the only requirement I hold myself to is that the food must be fresh, raised without chemicals and as local as I can get it. Lucky for me, I've watched my farmer's market grow from a few fruit and vegetable stands to a cheese stand, a dairy stand, a fish stand, a grass-fed beef stand, a pastured pork stand and many more! I must say, the only thing I'm really missing is some pastured lamb.

This past Sunday, the hubby, baby girl and I were walking to the market and discussing what we should make for dinner. Baby girl immediately spoke up and said, "Apples!" Which, when paired with pork, would be delightful. However, the hubby wanted something fresh and light since we had stuffed our faces the night before at my new favorite restaurant, Tipsy Parson. He was thinking fish. But, with my shoulder still in a sling and the hubby becoming a little annoyed with all the cooking and cleaning, I encouraged him to help me make something that would last a few days.

As we sauntered through the market, I spotted some lovely ground beef at the grass-fed beef stand. We haven't eaten ground beef in ages, usually sticking to turkey or even pork, but it spoke to me. Then I saw some lovely russet potatoes and carrots and even a few tomatoes. I suddenly yelped, "Shepherd's pie!" I can now clearly see how our ancestors created classic dishes like this using the seasons as their guide. The hubby, a meat and potatoes man at heart, heartily agreed and was also thrilled that Shepherd's pie also meant no cooking for a few days. He diced an onion, the carrots and peeled the potatoes and set me loose on some one armed cookery.

The result was really an amazing Shepherd's Pie which tasted very similar to my favorite one from Tea and Sympathy. It was full of flavor with hints of thyme, sage and a wee bit of Worcestershire sauce. A delicious, comforting dish on a cold, dark evening. Baby girl loved it too, especially the mashed potato and cheese topping. Enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie
(I'd never made Shepherd's pie before, but it's very intuitive and easy to make. It's also freezes very well. Just compose it in a disposable pie tin or one that is freezer safe.)

What You'll Need:

For the Potato Topping
2 lbs Russet Potatoes peeled
A big pat of butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese such as gouda or gruyere

For the Filling
1 lb ground beef
2 cups carrots peeled and diced
1 large onion diced
2 large cloves of garlic minced
3-5 sprigs thyme
10 sage leaves or a couple bunches with that number of leaves
1/2 cup white wine
32 oz can of diced tomatoes
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Set a steamer basket in a large pot and then fill with water up to the basket. Set it over a high heat and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, cover and steam until very soft. Discard the water, remove the steamer basket and return the potatoes to the pot. Add a nice chunk of butter, about 2 tablespoons, a good splash of milk, some salt and pepper and mash. If the potatoes aren't creamy enough, add milk until they are smooth. You want them to be spreadable. Set aside.

Place a large pan over a medium-high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the onions, garlic, carrots, thyme and sage. Cook until the onions start to brown and the carrots are softened. Add the beef and cook until there is no pink. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper and then add the wine, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add a bit more Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper if needed.

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the beef mixture into a pie plate. Leave just a little bit of room, about a quarter inch for the potatoes. You may have extra left over. Depending on how much, you might consider making some mini pies in ramekins. Then, smooth the potatoes on top and sprinkle the cheese on top of the potatoes. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until you see a little bubbling and the cheese is nice and brown.

To serve, spoon a little onto a plate and consider steamed broccoli or a fresh salad on the side. It's pretty much heaven.

Approximate Dinner Cost:
Groceries: $12
Cost per Meal: We got 8 servings at $1.50 each!

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  1. Would you please move in with me so you can cook for my family? I never make things like this. My poor family is being constantly deprived of the things they love to eat most :)

  2. This looks wonderful! I made some meatballs the other night and have a ton left over. Maybe rather than freezing them I'll mash them up and make this.

  3. Looks good! I was surprised to find, when we were in England that over there Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb, whereas I've always thought of it as made with beef like yours.

  4. Oh Sheryl, I'll cook for you some time!

    Marthaandme, I actually wanted to make it with lamb, but there wasn't any at the market. I don't think I've ever eaten shepherd's pie in England. I'd like to!

    Thanks everyone for the kind comment and, Unplanned cooking, let me know how it goes!!

  5. Looks tasty. You could also add a Thanksgiving spin on it and use ground turkey instead of the beef. We've been using ground turkey more and more these days.

  6. What I want to know, is with that delicious dish, how did you get leftovers? My husband and I would sit around eating it for dessert after dinner.

  7. Turkey's a great idea, readymom! I'll definitely try that out next time.

    Haha, Vera, you don't know how many times I had to scold the hubby. He kept dipping his fork into the leftovers!!

  8. No, Sheryl, I think Peggy should be moving in with us. I just had lunch, but am now dying of hunger after looking at this perfect comfort food.

  9. I love the way you describe how the ground beef "spoke" to you while you were strolling through the market. Wish we had an open air market in this town! When I lived outside Paris, we went three times a week. I would walk from stall to stall, looking for dinner inspiration, and often the chicken or fish would "speak" to me.

  10. this sounds so good. I will try it without the cheese, since cheese is bothering my stomach lately. I'm wondering, also, if you have any thoughts about a vegetarian version of shepherd's pie? I know it's not the same but my oldest daughter won't eat anything with meat in it...

  11. This looks amazing! I'm thinking something like this could be prepared with a meatless ground, or without meat (or a substitute) at all.

  12. I've eaten and made vegetarian versions -- one I liked best used both white and sweet potatoes, cook's choice as to which goes in the filling and which makes the topping.

    sounds as though you had a great time both making and eating this, Peggy, even with you shoulder still banged up.

  13. I think my husband would love me forever if I made this for dinner tonight. Love that you add the cost of ingredients. Good to know.

  14. Last night I made shepard's pie with mashed sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes and it was super yummy. My husband didn't love it though (too bad for him). I'm not going to be able to eat american beef for a while because I just saw Food Inc. Luckily, whole foods has ground lamb.



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