Although it now be spring, according to Google, there still aren’t too many greens available (they are starting!). So, time to use up some pantry staples.
I still have approximately a zillion potatoes, that I really need to use because they are starting to sprout. We’ll get there (hopefully).
I don’t remember if I’ve shared this yet or not, but particularly in regards to sourcing quality meat, apparently my generation is leading the charge at pushing for change.
I had meant to post about this last week, because Saturday was Pi Day (!) but I didn’t get around to it. I hope you celebrated appropriately! I got so excited at 9:26am, it was almost absurd. But hey, the world needs more enthusiasm.
Shepard’s pie is easygoing. A throw-everything-you-happen-to-have in kinda meal that (with a few key ingredients) ends up fantastic. It’s a good way to use random root vegetables that are staring to look a little questionable, and though it’s a meat-and-potatoes dish, I was surprised by the high ratio of vegetables I managed to stuff in, to have it end up tasting super meaty and hearty.
This also freezes excellently. I made two (one in an 8×8 pan (which admittedly worked better) and another in a pie dish), and froze the second (let cool, then cover tightly with aluminum foil). Then when you have a potluck and don’t have time to prep a bunch of things, plop it in a cold oven and turn up to 400 or so, leaving it until it’s heated through. Yum yum yum.
My secret ingredient in this particular pie was heavily reduced lamb stock. Shepard’s pie can be made with beef or lamb (lamb is a little more traditional), but I didn’t have lamb and anyway beef is a little cheaper. I did, however, have some lamb bones from a roast a little bit ago, so I boiled those for a long, long while, at first with quite a bit of water and then I let it reduce to perhaps 1/4 of the volume. Ended up with a thick rich lamb juice that paired splendidly with the ground beef. However, if you don’t have that you can use chicken stock, and it will still be tasty.
I will also note that I screwed up the potatoes a bit, and was glad not to be serving them plain. I don’t have a potato masher, and had the bright (heh) idea of using my immersion blender (at first just as a blunt tool, and then I decided to turn it on). Turns out too much beating blows up the swollen starch cells in the potatoes and make them gluey and weird. Fortunately, if you put them on top of something (aka ground meat mixture) and bake it, they still taste pretty good. Other suggestions for rescuing potatoes here.
Shepard's pie Potatoes: Starchy potatoes Milk Butter Salt and pepper Egg yolk (optional) Meat: Oil 1-2 onions 2-3 carrots Other veggies (turnips, celeriac) 3 cloves garlic 1 lb ground beef or lamb (you can also use small chunks, if you prefer) Salt and pepper 1-2 tablespoons flour 3/4 cup or so of lamb stock (reduced) or other stock A spoonful of tomato paste Rosemary and thyme A dash of Worchestershire sauce (optional) 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
Scrub the potatoes, and set them to boiling: cover with cold water, salt, then bring to a boil and simmer until soft (warning: if you overcook them, they are more likely to become gummy).
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop up whatever veggies you are using. Sauté veggies with oil, starting with the onions (everything but the garlic), until mostly soft, then add the garlic. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until meat is browned, stirring. Toss with a little flour, then add your lamb reduction, or other stock (it helps if this is already heated). Add tomato paste/sauce if you have it, other sauces as you see fit (Worchestershire sauce?), and herbs. If it starts getting dry, add more stock. Mix in frozen peas if you like.
By now the potatoes should be done; drain and mash (with skins!) with butter, milk, and and egg yolk if you are feeling particularly luxurious (hopefully with a potato masher. I’m not sure what I’ll use next time as a substitute). Season to taste.
Put the meat, which should have a thick sauce, in a baking dish (I recommend 2 8×8 pans, so you can freeze one, but you could do one large one, or pie dishes if you don’t have other vessels). Spread mashed potatoes on top, and put it in the oven until the juices are bubbly and potatoes are golden on top, 25 minutes or so. Let cool slightly before serving.
Leftovers heat up well in the microwave, although better (of course) in the oven. And like I said, it freezes well.