Monday, November 18, 2013

OhFeelYa's Easy...Dinners--Shephard's Pie

Away we go on another...wait for it...meat and potatoes meal for Ofy's Easy weeknight meals! I swear that when the seasons change, so will the menu items, but right now, my hubby loves these satisfying, traditional, starch-and-protein themed dinners. Up for this week is Shepard's Pie. Quite often, Shepard's Pie is just gross. Maybe it's the peas. But I love it because it's hearty and versatile. I'm using beef stew meat and pork cube steak (which, as far as I can tell, is just ground pork flattened out into a squarish-shape, but whatever) in this version, though lamb is traditionally used. If you think of it, throw your protein into a bowl with garlic, herbs (rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf--they can be dried or fresh), salt, pepper, and wine to marinate in the morning or the night before. This can also be a chicken or vegetarian dish if you like.
Before you get started on the filling, peel (or don't, as you wish) four large baking potatoes and put them in boiling water. For my Shepard's Pie, I used leek, rutabaga, carrot, and kale. You can use anything you like. Even the dreaded peas. For the kale, I shredded it off of the stems and discarded them. Then I heated just a bit of milk with a pinch each of salt and nutmeg to blanch the kale in so it wouldn't be bitter.


In a large cast-iron skillet (or other large oven-proof vessel also safe for the stovetop), heat 2 T of oil to pretty hot. Sear off the protein. Let it get good color on it. Remove the protein to a plate and lower heat. Use a 1/2 cup of beef broth to deglaze your pan. Pour in another 1 1/2 of beef broth. Add a splash of red wine, coffee, 1 t. Kitchen Bouquet, 2 t. Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to the broth. Taste. Adjust as necessary. Combine 1 1/2 T corn starch with that much cool water, stir, and add to broth to make gravy. Let the broth boil for at least a minute and reduce to a simmer. Add in protein and veggies. Let it simmer until the rutabaga and carrots just begin to soften, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat.
When you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork, take them off the heat, drain them, and return them to a low heat, shaking the pot, until they're dry (watery mashed potatoes don't even bear mentioning). Mash the potatoes with whatever you like. At my house, I use about 3T butter, 1/2 cup milk, a splash of cream, salt and pepper and I add milk at intervals until they reach the consistency I want. I like them really smooth, so I use a hand mixer. However, you can do anything you want. Leave the skins on. Leave them chunky. Add sour cream or yogurt in place of the cream. Add cheddar cheese and chives. Remember, the point of the Easy Dinners series is to give you tasty recipes you can make your own.

When your potatoes are mashed, spread them over the pan of meat and veggies, making a crust of sorts. I'm cooking at the lake this weekend, so I'm without all my stuff, but normally I would use my frosting bag to pipe a decorative pattern with the potatoes. As it is, I tried piping them out through a plastic baggie with the corner cut off. The result was rather akin to cow patty pie rather than shepard's pie. It was really unappetizing, and I apologize for not snapping a picture so you could giggle at my lame artistic attempt. I wound up just slapping it around with a spatula to eradicate the patties.
Put your potato-covered masterpiece in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minute or until it reaches your desired level of browned and crispy.
When you take it out of the oven, let it sit for 15 minutes-ish so the gravy can thicken and not just run everywhere when you cut into it.
Let's face it; it's exceedingly hard to make Shepard's Pie look pretty. But made right, it's tasty and filling and will last you for an entire work week for about $12-15. Plus you can play with the weird veggies like parsnip and rutabaga. Everybody wins.

I'm super excited to say that I finally got in at the right time to get a basket of food from Bountiful Baskets, a mostly local food co-op this Saturday, so I will report back this weekend. I can't wait!

Shepard's Pie Recipe after the jump!


Shepard's Pie
  • Protein--I used a combination of one package of cubed beef and "cubed pork steak" (ground pork). You can use anything you like. Lamb is traditional, but you could use chicken, pork chops, ground beef, whatever you like. If it's not ground, cut it into bite-size cubes. You could even do tofu or add another hearty veggie to make it vegetarian. Go crazy!
  • Marinate your meat in wine (white for pork or chicken, red for beef or lamb), 2-4 crushed whole garlic cloves, fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, or 1-2 bay leaves) for several hours before cooking, if you're able. If not, give it a good salt and peppering just before cooking and add the herbs in when you add all the broth. 
  • 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into roughly equivalent slices
  • Veggies-I used one rutabaga, three large carrots, 4 stalks of kale, and 3 leeks. I think that butternut squash, sweet onion, and parsnip would be another excellent combination, especially with chicken.
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (plus extra depending on how smooth you want the potatoes)
  • 3 T. heavy cream
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2-3 cups beef broth to cover, depending on the size of your pan (again, I recommend Better than Bullion paste made into broth; use veggie or chicken flavor depending on the theme of your pie)
  • 1/2 cup of the same wine you used to marinate the protein
  • 2 T cornstarch (just before you add it, mix it with 2 T cold water)
  • 1/2 cup coffee (if using beef or lamb)
  • 1 t. Kitchen Bouquet
  • 2 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover sliced potatoes with water in a large pot, set heat to medium-high, and let them boil until you can easily pierce them with a fork. When you can, immediately remove them from heat and strain them thoroughly. Place them back on heat and toss them for a few seconds until they're dried out. Set aside.

Dice your veggies into roughly equivalent, bite-sized pieces. If you use a bitter green, remove it from the stem, roughly chop it, and blanch it in a pan of simmering milk with a pinch of salt and nutmeg to help disperse some of the bitterness. Drain the milk and set aside. 

In a large cast-iron skillet (or other large oven-proof vessel also safe for the stovetop), heat oil. You want it to sizzle if you let a drop of water fall into it. Be careful! Sear off the protein. Let it get good color on it on both sides.

Remove the protein to a plate and lower heat. Use a 1/2 cup of broth to deglaze your pan. Pour in another 1 1/2 cup of beef broth. Add a splash of red wine, coffee, 1 t. Kitchen Bouquet, 2 t. Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to the broth. Taste. Adjust as necessary. Combine 1 1/2 T corn starch with that much cool water, stir, and add to broth to make gravy. Let the broth boil for at least a minute and reduce to a simmer. Add in protein and veggies. Add more broth if needed until the pie filling is almost, but not quite, covered. Let it simmer until the rutabaga and carrots just begin to soften, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat.

While your pie filling is simmering, mash your potatoes with the butter, cream, milk, salt and pepper or whatever additives you prefer. Taste as you go.

When your pie filling is ready, spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the pan into a crust. Try to seal the pan with potatoes. Place the pan in the oven, and let bake for about 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. This is lovely with some pickled veggies or a quick tossed salad. Enjoy!