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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Matt's Shepherd’s Pie (Guest Post)

Here's one of my wonderful husband's dinner specialities.  It's fantastic! And not just because I don't have to cook it.

If it’s not obvious my now, I’m lucky to be able to taste so many of Jen’s wonderful dishes. As much as I like helping and tasting, I even enjoy cooking sometimes too. One recipe that I’ve been tinkering with for ages now is my shepherd’s pie. You can make this recipe in lots of different ways but there are a couple of tried-and-true tips to make any shepherd’s pie even better that I’m happy to share below.
This is what you’ll need to start off:

1 lb of ground beef
3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes (5 lb if you want left over mashed potatoes)
1 cup grated marble cheese or old cheddar
1/3 to ½ cup of milk
3 to 4 tablespoons of butter
2 zucchinis (or ¾ cup frozen peas if you’d prefer)
1 cup frozen corn
2 large carrots
1 large red onion
5 heaping tablespoons of salsa
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel your potatoes.

Cube the potatoes; no need to be too careful about the sizes but aim for relatively uniform sizes. Get the potatoes boiling while you get to work on the filling. They should take about 20 minutes or so, enough to be tender when pricked with a fork.

Brown your ground beef. We use lean ground beef and don’t really need to drain the fat but if you use medium ground beef or just want to be healthier, drain any fat you can with a spoon once all the pink is gone.

Peel and chop the carrots into uniform sticks.

Chop the carrots into ½ or ¾ centimeter wedges.

Do the same for your zucchini. (Once again, if you want to speed things up or just prefer peas, feel free to use frozen peas and add them to the filling later.)

Dice your onion into medium sized pieces. You might be able to do this faster than I can if a) you have better knife skills than I do, or b) you aren’t anal retentive like I am.

Add your carrots, zucchini and onions to your browned beef. Stir and then cover until the vegetables are just starting to soften.

Add your salsa. This not only adds flavor but also helps the filling to stick together better. (If you don’t like spicy foods, you can use a smaller amount of tomato paste or even a similar amount of pizza or pasta sauce… but come on, it’s salsa and it is delicious.)

Add your frozen corn. (And your frozen peas if you decided to skip the zucchini.)

At this point, all the veggies should be soft but not mushy and ready for added flavor. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and your filling is good to go.

Take a large casserole dish and spread out your filling evenly.
Now, it’s time for special tip no. 1:

We can all agree that cheese is awesome. If you disagree and are not lactose intolerant, I’m sure you can find a good psychologist in the phone book. However, when you put the cheese ON TOP of the potato topping, it not only prevents a nice crust on top, it can also cook into its own little layer that can be tricky to cut with a fork – and this is a knife-free dish.
The solution? Spread the cheese out over the filling layer and then add the potatoes over top. You are welcome.

Now, once your potatoes are soft and drained of excess water, add your butter, milk and a dash more of salt and pepper.

Use your hand mixer (or potato masher if you prefer less creamy mashed potatoes) and whip the potatoes. Be careful not to overdo it or they will get gummy if you use a mixer. As soon as they are whipped and all the chunks are done, you’re done too.

Now, time to spread your delicious topping over your delicious filling. Not liking this recipe is downright un-North American, by the way.

Spread everything out nice and even… and then it’s time for special tip no. 2:

Magical [scientific] things happen when food is browned and charred, right? It’s the difference between a steamed White Castle burger and a beautifully seared BBQ hamburger. In this case, instead, of just a flat surface, you want a ridged surface of potato goodness. Use a fork and make ridges along the surface of the potatoes. Not only is it fun, but it lets the potatoes get a wonderful crispy texture that would be impossible if you left them flat. Science is your friend.

Sprinkle your work of art with paprika (because grandma said so, that’s why).
Throw that bad boy in the oven at 400 degrees. What you want is to hear / see the juices bubbling up around the edges of the dish. It takes about 20 or 25 minutes. Once that happens, you’re set to go – except for taking further advantage of those those-to-be-delicious potato ridges. Turn on your broiler and keep a close eye on things, as it will only take a few minutes to add some wonderful texture and flavor.

When it’s all said and done, it should look beautiful – crispy on top but still hiding that delicious melted cheese underneath.

Now back to your regularly scheduled and far-more-advanced-and-wonderful food blog.

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