Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shepherd's Pie, Cattle Rancher's Pie

Sweet Potato Lamb Shepherd's Pie
Comforting Christmas shepherd's pie. Technically the challenge was Pate Chinois,
but a rose by any other name 
still smells as delicious and all that.
Way back in December, I made a couple of shepherd's pies for the Daring Cooks Challenge. Proper shepherd's pie, I think, should be made with lamb because shepherds didn't watch cows, they watched sheep. The beef version should be called something else like. . . Cattle Rancher's Pie. God, that's a mouthful. 
I might also be willing to accept that shepherds just really LOVED their sheep, and therefore refused to eat them, only making their pies out of beef. In any case, shepherds apparently didn't know much about fruit. Or flour.

I've often dreamed of being a shepherd. Whenever I've wanted to escape academia.

Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Fancy fucking wavy lines!
In any case, most of us think of shepherd's pie as ground beef covered in mashed potatoes, but it's no trouble to swap out the beef for lamb, or the potato for yam. I ate shepherd's pie a lot at summer camp, but I seldom make it at home, which is a shame because it's cheap and healthy and delicious. I could probably eat shepherd's pie a lot of days of the week. 

(I've been telling everyone this, and I'll tell you too because it will blow your mind. Potatoes are healthier than sweet potatoes. The sweet potato has been praised as some sort of nutrient god and the poor potato has been maligned all over the media, but for no good reason. How do I know this? Because some kid (for those in the know) told me so on a podcast. He did some data analysis on a couple thousand entries in the USDA database and after correcting for fibre and water content, potatoes came out with a better nutrient profile. You can choose to believe me of not, but I'm gonna eat more potatoes. Wrapped in bacon.)

Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe
I used to have to buy casserole dishes that were toaster-oven sized only.

Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe
I can't remember the exact "recipe" I used for these, but that doesn't matter. I know the jist of it, and that's all you need for shepherd's pie. It's one of those recipes where you should feel free to eyeball quantities and experiment liberally.

A bunch of potatoes (1 lb?)
Some ground meat (1 lb?)
A medium onion
a few garlic cloves
Maybe a couple handfuls of mushrooms
herbs (thyme, sage, marjoram, whatever you like [for lamb, I tend towards cloves and nutmeg, too])
Worchestershire sauce, beef stock, red wine, or some other sort of delicious liquid
salt and pepper to taste
some random amount of butter, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, milk (aka mashed potato mix-ins of your choice, or whichever ones are in the fridge)
Cheese or bread crumbs if you've got them
Some sort of dish that will fit all of the stuff

Preheat the oven to something good. Maybe 375F.
Start out by peeling and boiling your (sweet) potatoes in salty water, and dicing up some onion and garlic. In another pan big enough to hold the meat, sweat your dice (fry it on medium-low) until translucent in a little fat. I also diced up some mushrooms and tossed them in to shrink into the onions. Toss in the ground beef (lamb) along with spices, salt and pepper, and stir it slash let it brown. Add some sort of savoury liquid and let it simmer a bit, toss in your peas and then take it off of the heat. Some people like corn or carrots or whatever, but I just like peas.

Hopefully your potatoes are done now and you can mash them however you normally like to mash potatoes. I add butter and cream and lots of pepper, and salt to taste. I like to add something with a bit of tang if I've got it, like sour cream, cream cheese or buttermilk.

Pour the meat into your dish and layer the mash on top. Sprinkle it with bread crumbs or Parmesan if you've got it (gluten free!) and stick it in the oven to heat through and get all golden on top. Yum!

Vague = easy, right? Let's not call is vague. Let's call it freedom!

Best Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Dinner in a bowl is always good.

Hopefully I'll follow this post up with a pile of other posts, not because I made a New Year's Resolution or anything, but because I didn't post at all in December. December was busy with mice and applications and visits home.

Sweet Potato Lamb Shepherd's Pie Recipe
My Le Creuset mini pots have just gained a grill pan cousin!

"Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!"

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