Friday, June 13, 2014

Shepherd’s Pie

This one is neither especially cheap nor especially easy.  It’s very tasty, though, and both your kids and your grumpy, picky, rich-kid husband will probably like it. You can use either beef or lamb, and you can use any sort of beef or lamb.  Traditionally, left-over bits of meat get used – it’s a way to use up scraps of meat – but I usually buy whatever cut of meat is cheapest and cut it into small cubes.

  • About a pound of meat (beef, usually)
  • Some olive oil
  • One onion
  • A couple cloves of garlic
  • A little flour
  • One carrot
  • Two stalks celery
  • Some thyme, some rosemary
  • A cup of cooked peas
  • A cup or two of chicken broth
  • Maybe half a cup of Marsala wine (the good stuff) -- maybe more.
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Four or five potatoes
  • Milk & butter to mash them with with
  • About a half cup of your favorite cheese, grated (sharp cheddar works well)

First, dice the onion pretty fine.  Cook it in the olive oil over medium low heat in your biggest skillet (I use my big iron skillet) while you cut up the meat.  You want the meat in small pieces – about the size of beans, or a little bigger.  

Put the meat in with the cooking onions; stir it all with a wooden spoon.  Turn the heat up just a little so the meat will start browning.

Smash the garlic and cut it up pretty fine.  Put it in with the meat.  Stir some more.
Scatter a tablespoon or so of flour over the meat and onions and garlic.  Stir some more.

Peel and cut up your carrot.  Slice your celery.  Add both of these to the mix.  Now add the broth.  Stir some more.  Add some Marsala.  Stir.

Add your thyme and rosemary.  I use fresh because my local store sells fresh really cheap, and the fresh stalks are easy to pull out after.  Dry is nearly as good, so feel free to use that.

Add a little salt and pepper.  Don’t over-salt.

 Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring pretty often.  If the broth gets too thick, add some water and maybe more Marsala.

After 40 minutes, check to see if your meat is done.  It should be very tender.  If it is, you’re good.  If not, cook another 20 minutes or so, adding water (and Marsala!) as necessary.  Don’t add too much water – we’re aiming for a thick gravy-like consistency.

Mealwhile, peel and boil your potatoes until they are tender.  Mash with milk and butter.

Start pre-heating the over to 350.

When the meat is tender, add the peas to the mix and stir well.  Put in a pie pan or a casserole dish.  Cover with a thick (thick, thick) layer of mashed potatoes.

Using a fork, drag it along the surface of the potatoes, creating deep ridges.
Now scatter grated cheese over the top of the potatoes.

Put the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 35 minutes.

Serve with a nice dark beer for the adults, and ginger ale for the kids.