Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1 Recipe #250: Shepherd's Pie, A St. Paddy's Day Treat!

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Since it's almost St. Paddy's Day, I have a short, relevant, personal story to share with you. Most of my family probably doesn't realize this, but I went through a good bit of my life -- up until about my mid-twenties --thinking that we were part Irish. When St. Patty's Day would roll around, I'd smile (yes, Irish eyes are always smiling ;) ) and don green, feeling proud to have an "excuse" to celebrate "being Irish." As the saying goes, "Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day," but back then, I really did think that I was. :)

So what led me to believe this? Well, long ago, my mother had told me a story about her Uncle Jack, who'd lived in Ireland. So of course, as a little kid, I'd assumed that this meant that he was Irish, and therefore, so were we. :) However, one day many years later, during a discussion about our family's heritage, I asked my mother point blank, "We're part-Irish, right?" She looked at me quite incredulously, and replied, "No, we're not Irish. What ever gave you that idea?" And then, of course, I mentioned the story she'd told me about Uncle Jack. She then explained to me that, although he and his wife had lived in Ireland, Uncle Jack was actually of English extraction. So, unless there was some as-yet undiscovered, long-lost Irish relative, there was no way we were Irish, not even a smidge. Upon hearing this, I'd felt a bit deflated, as I'd always thought that I had some kind of kinship, quite literally, with the Irish. Oh well, I guess you don't have to be Irish to appreciate their warmth and wry sense of humor, participate in various aspects of their culture (music, dance, folklore, etc.), or enjoy a delicious and hearty slice of shepherd's pie. :)

I'd like to thank my pal Patrick (who's so very aptly named indeed! ;) ) for suggesting this dish as a meal idea for St. Patrick's Day. Hope you enjoy the recipe!


Shepherd's Pie

Filling Ingredients:
1 1/8 lbs. (1.125 lbs.) lean ground (or minced), grass-fed beef (or lamb)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, peeled & shredded (1 small onion)
1/4 c. shallots, peeled & shredded
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1/2 c. red wine
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 c. low-sodium, reduced-fat chicken (or beef) broth
1/2 c. shredded baby carrots
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, densely packed & finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh Tuscan rosemary leaves, densely packed & finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed

Mashed Potato Topping:
3 qts. (12 c.) lightly salted water (for boiling potatoes)
4 large red-skinned potatoes, peeled (makes about 2 c. mashed)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 c. skim milk
2 Tbsp. lite, non-dairy creamer
1 egg
1/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded

Directions: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a large sauce/stock pot, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large (12-13") nonstick sauté pan, sear meat on high heat (without oil) until browned, about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. While meat is cooking, stir to break up meat into small bite-sized bits. Remove from heat & discard any residual fat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer into a metal colander to allow the excess liquid and any remaining fat to drain. Set aside. By now, water should be at a rolling boil. Add potatoes to the sauce/stock pot, & then set your kitchen timer for 20-25 minutes.

Make the filling: In the same sauté pan you used to sear the meat, heat olive oil on low heat until it glistens. Then add onion, shallots, and garlic, and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Just as ingredients start to brown, deglaze pan with red wine and Worcestershire sauce. Stir continuously with a spatula to break up any of the fond (the brown bits) that've stuck to the bottom & sides of the pan. Next, immediately return (drained) meat back to the pan and stir in tomato paste until thoroughly combined.  (Do this step quickly before all of the liquid disappears.) Quickly season with salt & pepper, ground nutmeg, and paprika, and then add a 3/4 c. chicken (or beef) broth to the pan, stirring continuously. Turn up heat to high and cook for about 10 minutes, or until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Stir in carrots and another 1/2 c. broth, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 c. broth and all of the fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, and thyme), and cook until liquid has been reduced to a thin layer on the bottom of the pan, about 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool.

Make the mashed potato topping: By now, the potatoes should be done. Drain water & let them cool for 5-10 minutes. When ready, mash potatoes until creamy & smooth, or pass through a potato ricer or Mouli grater, using the same pot you used to boil the potatoes as the receptacle for whichever option you choose. Place butter into the bottom of the stock pot containing the potatoes, turn on the heat to high, and cook for about 30-60 seconds, until butter starts to melt. Quickly remove from heat, season with salt & pepper, stir in milk & nondairy lite creamer, and whisk in egg. Mix until just combined & set aside. (Be careful not to overmix mashed potatoes, or else they'll become glue-like and unappetizing in terms of both taste and texture.)

Assemble pie: Put the meat filling into a 1 1/2 qt., circular, over-proof/Pyrex baking bowl (or deep pie plate), and then top with the mashed potato topping, using the back of a large spoon. (I used a Pyrex bowl that was 7" in diameter and 3 1/2" high.) The mashed potato mixture should form a slight mound on top of the bowl versus being completely flat, as the pie will deflate slightly after baking. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, making sure to evenly spread out the cheese so that it covers the entire top surface of the bowl.  Use a fork to prick the top so that the potato mixture forms little peaks on its surface. Place in a preheated oven set to 400°F, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown. Divide into equal portions, transfer to plates, and serve immediately, preferably with a green vegetable side dish. :)

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Variation: Substitute Guinness Extra Stout for the wine and chicken/beef broth. Use a 1/2 c. of it to deglaze the pan with the onions, shallots, & garlic, and then add the remaining 1 c., a 1/2 c. at a time, for cooking the meat, carrots, and herbs.

1 comment:

Jackie denise said...

Made this tonight, really tasty, would highly recommend this dish, one of nicest sheperds pies I have made. Eating some now and have made loads to freeze. :)

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