Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You say Cottage Pie, I say Shepherd's Pie

So, during the day today, while I was thinking about making tonight's dinner, I kept referring to the dish I was going to make as Cottage Pie. I can't even remember at this point where I first learned that Shepherd's Pie made with ground beef instead of ground lamb should be referred to as Cottage Pie. And since I've never made either before, I really had no reason to worry about the specifics. Turns out, here in the good old US of A, we refer to it as Shepherd's Pie whether it's made with lamb or beef. From what I read on Wikipedia, in England they make the distinction, based on what type of meat is used. But the article I read said that in Ireland, they will refer to it as Shepherd's Pie whether beef or lamb is used. Why might this be so important, you might ask?? Well, because today is St. Patrick's Day and, being the good Irish girl that I am, I decided to make something traditionally Irish for dinner tonight. I've made Irish Soda Bread in past years, and had totally planned on making some today. But my laziness got the best of me and my family is lucky I bothered to cook anything at all :) So anyway, for my purposes, this dish will be known as Shepherd's Pie, being that I'm both American and Irish :)

This is a tradition Irish dish that is made, usually, to use up leftovers. So I'm pretty sure you could use any vegetable you have in the house. I considered adding green beans, but I thought my husband might boycott, since there are already peas in it and he doesn't much like either peas or greens beans. So I left the green beans out. But, like I said, I'm sure most any vegetable would go well here.

I saw this recipe on this morning's CBS Early Show and decided it would be perfect for dinner tonight because I had everything I needed and because I had been trying to think of something Irish to make. I was happy that this recipe turned out to be kosher-friendly. I found that a lot of the Irish recipes I was finding weren't. I mean, I know I can always omit the bacon or ham or whatever. But still, I needed something that was already easily made kosher without having to make a whole lot of substitutions due to my lack of motivation :) The only thing I had to do was scale the recipe down a bit. I only had a pound of beef to work with and the original recipe calls for 2 pounds of lamb. Also, I chose to omit the celery since I pretty much despise the stuff, so I just added an extra carrot. I used an 8x8 baking dish to bake mine and the "gravy" started bubbling over the sides. Probably because I forgot to scale down the amount of broth I used. But it turned out OK. I just put a baking sheet underneath of the baking dish while it was baking to avoid any drippings ending up on my stove. And I like lots of gravy anyway, so it all worked out. The only other changes I made were to use beef broth instead of chicken broth and I did not brush my potato topping with heavy cream and I used dried basil instead of thyme.

Shepherd's Pie ( source: CBS Early Show)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, diced
1 large celery rib, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
Simple Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the lamb and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it browns, season with salt and pepper. Transfer browned lamb to a paper towel lined dish to drain. Wipe skillet clean.

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Cook until the onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Return the lamb to the skillet and stir in the tomato paste. Add flour. Cook about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in the corn and peas.

Transfer to a casserole dish and spread mashed potatoes on top. Use a fork to create swirls on top. Brush with heavy cream. Bake 20 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Simple Mashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted and milk is very hot but not simmering.

Return the potatoes to the pot and add the hot milk mixture and 2 teaspoons salt. Using a handheld electric mixer, whip the potatoes until smooth and creamy with no lumps. Adjust seasoning to taste.

I did not use Katie Lee's mashed potato recipe since it would have made this dish not kosher. I just boiled my potatoes in salted water until they were fork tender, drained them, and mixed them with some chicken broth and parve margarine. They were pretty tasty, but if you're not worrying about keeping it kosher, I'd go with the butter and cream version :) Mostly because I think butter and cream makes everything better. But honestly, I didn't miss it in this recipe. It was super flavorful and my whole family loved it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Beef Stew

So, incase you hadn't heard, the Mid Atlantic was hit by a HUGE snowstorm on Saturday. Here in Columbia, MD, we got 30+ inches of snow, and we're expecting another 12-20 inches tomorrow night. Needless to say, we've been pretty much stuck in the house, no school (I happen to be on vacation this week) and lots of free time that is getting harder to fill. I'm trying not to bake too much, because I know we'll just sit around and eat it all out of boredom. I have some chili leftover from last weekend, but since Rob and Maura don't like chili, I knew I needed to make something warm and comforting for them.

I have made beef stew once before, in my Crock Pot, and it was ok, but nothing I was head over heels for. My mom makes a wonderful beef stew, but I wanted to try something a little different. When I saw that this recipe called for red wine, I knew this would be the one I'd try because I'm always looking for a reason to cook with wine, and because I had half a bottle sitting around that needed using up. Also, I found this recipe on my good friend Chelle's website, and I know that any recipe that she has endorsed is going to be a good one. This will, from now on, be my go to Beef Stew recipe.

I plan on playing around with a little to make it more broth-y. The potatoes and beef soaked up most of the liquid, and the stew was amazingly flavorful, but I would have preferred more broth.
I am amazed by how few ingredients this stew called for, yet how much flavor it has. I was floored and I can't wait to eat the leftovers. It was so simple and so comforting, and I am quite sure I will always have beef stew meat waiting in my freezer to make this dish.

I will link to the recipe on Chelle's site, but I will also post my slightly adapted version below. Chelle originally found this recipe on Good Things Catered, but I believe it was originally an America's Test Kitchen recipe.

Hearty Beef Stew

2 lbs. beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes
Salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
4 large carrots (about 1 lb.), peeled and sliced 1/4 in. thick

Dry beef throughly and season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add half the meat so that pieces are not touching and cook not moving until brown (about 2-3 min). Use tongs and rotate pieces until all sides are browned (about 5 additional min.). Transfer beef to medium bowl and add another 1 tablespoon oil to pan, repeating previous steps with other half of beef (I wasn't able to do this process in just 2 batches. I had to do it in thirds.)

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now empty pan and swirl to coat bottom. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, scraping bottom of pan for brown bits until softened (about 5 mins). Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 sec. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored (1-2 min.). Add wine, scraping the bottom and stiring until thick and flour is dissolved.

Gradually add the beef broth, stirring constantly, scraping up the remaining browned bits on bottom of pan. Add bay leaves and thyme and return to simmer. Add beef, return to simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add potatoes and carrots, leave uncovered, increase heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes.

Discard bay leaves and serve immediately.

This is the wine I used. It is one of the best Kosher wines I've found, so far, and I know that this wine is a huge reason why my stew turned out so flavorful. I plan to use this wine next time I need to cook with red wine.