Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Pie That Wasn't

This is the first in a series I like to call Staples, which consists of recipes that I turn to time and time again. Today's staple is near and dear to my heart, mostly because of its Irish (or English, depending on who you're asking) my ancestors! Yep, I'm a proud Irish lassie and am known to blast an Elders CD while making this recipe.

Sorry for the cell phone pics. I literally had a child on my hip for every part of this recipe besides the chopping. Oh, and another side note: be creative with this, it's half the fun. I've never made it the same way more than once, so suit it all to your own taste.

Shepherd's (or Cottage) Pie
- approx. 1 lb. ground beef (ours was local, grassfed) or lamb; I've never used turkey or chicken, but it might taste yummy
- 1/2 medium onion or 1 small onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 stalks celery, diced
- 3-4 carrots, diced
- 2 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. thyme (to taste)
- 2 tsp. rosemary
- salt and pepper
- a couple dollops earthy mustard (I used a balsamic garlic mustard)
- a few Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 to full bottle hard cider, beer, red wine, or stock
- a few Tbsp. flour
- 1 c. (give or take) each of frozen peas, frozen corn and/or any other veggies you have on hand
- leftover mashed potatoes (depends on how much filling you're making; I had ~ 4 c. leftover garlic smashed potatoes; it doesn't have to cover the entire top, but if you'd like it to, make more potatoes)
- grated cheese for top, to taste (I used cheddar and parmesan)

At medium-high rown the ground meat in a couple Tbsp. of olive oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent (you can add the salt and pepper now; the salt helps the onions sweat), then add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook at medium heat until you cook the "bite" out of the veggies.

Add the seasonings, mustard, Worcestershire, liquid of your choice, and whisk in the flour (you can also whisk the flour into some of your liquid or water before adding it to avoid lumps, but sometimes I just throw it in and the whisk helps take care of that). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to allow to simmer. The goal is to achieve a thick (but not TOO thick) consistency, which can take ten minutes or twenty, but you can really let it cook as long as you'd like. (I think I went the 20-30 minute range.) In the last 5-10 minutes, add the corn and peas (I forgot to do this and added them way early. They look yucky but taste fine.)

Use the free time to play with your helper.

Yes, his hair is "fluffy" and has a tendency to stick up like that.

That's what I call bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Oh, right. Also use this time to heat up your mashed potatoes. You could avoid this step, but they're easier to spread (and you may find you need to add more milk) if you just throw them in a pan and heat them.

When ready, put the mixture in the bottom of an oven-safe dish (I used a 9x13 casserole; if you make a smaller one, use a smaller dish; round ones are great for this and make for a more "deep dish pie") and dollop mashed potatoes over the top. Then, spread the mashed potatoes (easier than plopping it all on at once), add shredded cheese and a dash of salt and pepper, and maybe some more thyme or rosemary.

I usually make this ahead then bake it off when I'm ready for it, so make sure it comes to room temperature before cooking it -- I do 375 or 400 degrees for around 20-30 minutes. If you want it brown, go ahead and put it under the broiler for the last few minutes.

It may not look like much, but it's not really supposed to, and I promise you 'tis tasty, especially with a few extra dashes of Worcestershire at the end. Plus, it provides leftovers for a few days' worth of lunches (or more dinner, if you like). It's a good way to take one meal (in this case, the hubby's birthday steak dinner with garlic mashed potatoes and peas) into something equally as yummy. I suggest serving it with a side salad brimming with fresh greens and a light dressing, and perhaps a glass of whatever "liquid" you chose to use. Comfort food at its finest!

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