Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Bill's Shepherd's Pie...Made with real shepherds!
There have to be a million recipes for Shepherd's Pie. Most are extremely simple. Fry up onions and beef with salt and pepper. Layer with cooked corn. Top with mashed potato. Bake till the top is brown. Sounds good for a dorm room. It is a fairly simple recipe, but that is my challenge. I just can't leave simple things alone!
Lamb, of course, would be the logical choice for this, and it would be wonderful with the shifting of a few herbs.(I just cannot deal with lamb for some reason.) In fact, shifting a few herbs and spices can give this dish a rather international quality. There is no reason, because of the herbs and broth in my version, that you could not play with this and choose different meats to get an Oriental, Italian, American, French, Greek or any other regional variation. You could even substitute a layer of macaroni and a cheesy white sauce for the potato.
Peel two to three pounds of potatoes. The way the quality of the potato goes in the markets, you may need more. I find tons of waste when I buy in the market. Wash, and cut them into two inch chunks. Boil till tender. While you are boiling the potatoes, chop one very large white or yellow onion in half inch pieces.(Bell peppers would also be good.)
Saute the onion in olive oil till transparent. Add 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef(drain off the fat if the fat content is high)and brown while breaking it up in the pan. Add two minced cloves of garlic and allow to cook briefly. When the meat is brown, make a clear spot in the pan, and lower the heat. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste to the cleared center, and stir till the tomato browns a bit. Add salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons of Thyme,(cinnamon if desired) and one can of beef broth with red wine added to make two cups total.(You might also like Worcester Sauce in this. The measurements may vary according to your taste. Boil the liquids away while preparing one tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of red wine or water. When the liquids have reduced leaving the level about half as deep as the meat, add the cornstarch mixture, a cup of thawed frozen peas and lower the heat again. cook till the starch flavor has cooked out and the mixture is quite thick. Set this aside to cool a bit.
An alternative to this method would be to add dry flour(1-2 Tablespoons) to the pan after the tomato paste, and stir to cook it through. Add the liquids after and stir till the sauce has thickened.(This will darken the sauce if you allow it to brown slightly again after the tomato. Don't over do.)
Vary this whole production by using lamb with cinnamon, oregano or mint,(lemon juice if desired) and garlic....Pork with garlic,white wine and rosemary or the Mexican mix of oregano, garlic, cumin and chile peppers....and so on.
Thaw and cook two cups of frozen corn in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
Or, precook a cup of diced carrots.
Another addition would be two cups of quartered mushrooms of your choice, cooked in butter or olive oil. see also the post on Mushroom Caviar posted elsewhere.
Mash the potatoes with a cup of milk(more if needed)or Half and Half, one stick of butter, one cup of Parmesan or other grating cheese, salt and pepper. They should not be runny, but should be pleasantly soft.(Adding the flesh from a whole roasted head of garlic will send this out of the park especially if you use unpeeled red potatoes.)
Grease or spray a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan. Make a second layer of corn on top of the meat. Then carefully spread the mashed potatoes as a top layer. Rake the top of the potatoes with the tines of a fork in a decorative pattern. This looks glorious if you pipe the potato on top with the largest star tip and a forward and backward motion. Sprinkle with paprika. Place in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes or till the top is nicely browned and the center is hot.