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.