Thursday, December 06, 2012

Mmm, shepherd's pie and sauteed zucchini

This is not a traditional shepherd's pie, as I make it with ground beef instead of lamb... but I think it's awesome... it's a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes or it takes hardly any time at all to make some specifically for this dish.  If you use lefties, you will probably want to add more milk to make them more creamy than thick.
Makes a 9x13 baking dish-full.
  • 2-3 lbs ground beef, no more than 10% fat is best
  • small bag of frozen peas (you could add chopped carrots, mushrooms or corn as well)
  • 1 small can (I think 6 oz) tomato paste
  • olive oil, 1-2 Tbsp.
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves (up to you) garlic, pressed
  • sweet (not hot) paprika, salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • 3-4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4-8 Tbsp. butter for mashed potatoes, to taste
  • 1-2 cups milk for mashed potatoes, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In big pot, cover your chopped potatoes with 1" water and add a little salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat then lower the heat so you don't boil over.  Cook potatoes until tender and fork pierces without any resistance.  Drain all the water out and leave potatoes in hot pot, no lid, on hot (turned off) burner.  You want them as dry as possible. Water causes the starch molecules to swell, break down, and gelatinize (get pasty).

In large frying pan, saute onions in olive oil over med-high heat until transparent.  Add ground beef and break up, stirring occasionally until evenly browned.  If you're watching your calories, you can drain the fat at this point, but you will lose some flavor.  Add garlic, oregano, and paprika... I think I usually add about 2-3 tsp of paprika and the same of oregano.  Stir in tomato paste and reduce heat to medium, stirring regularly to blend well.

Meanwhile add butter to your potatoes and mash.  (Don't add milk before or with the butter; you need the fat molecules to coat the starch molecules first before the cold liquid.)  After they're fully mashed up, start adding milk until they get to the creaminess you prefer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Taste your beef mixture and add salt and pepper as needed.  I usually add about a teaspoon or two of salt, depending on how much beef and what brand of tomato paste I used (some are salty already.)  Put your frozen peas in a bowl in the microwave and defrost them, then use a slotted spoon to get them out of the extra water and stir into the beef.  Pour the beef/pea mixture into the 9x13 baking dish, then pile the mashed potatoes on top in heaping giant spoonfuls, smoothing it out to seal all the way to the edges of the dish. I find it makes a nicer presentation to have little "crests" or "peaks" of potato sticking up instead of being perfectly smoothed out, because you'll broil it at the end and get them nice and brown.

Usually with my oven, I cook this for 40-45 min-- if your dish is glass, you'll see the beef mixture bubbling away under the mashpots-- and then I put it under a hot broiler for about 10 minutes to make the top crispy and golden brown.

Especially if you put additional veggies in, this is a relatively healthy one-pot meal which really smells good while cooking and warms the tum.

If like me you only put peas in, here's a recipe to go with it:

Sauteed Zucchini with Onions- serves 3-4

Halve and chop into 1/2" slices 3 or 4 zucchini squash.  Cut 1/2 of a yellow onion into thin wedges.  Saute the onion in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until brown on the edges and pretty soft.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Add your zucchini and continue to saute until zucchini is getting softer and golden brown.  Sprinkle a little more salt if you think it needs it, then add a good splash all the way around the pan of white balsamic vinegar (at least a good couple tablespoons, maybe up to 1/4 cup or so.)  Keep stirring while the vinegar turns into a glaze, about 2-4 minutes, and remove from heat.  Optionally you can serve with goat cheese or parmesan sprinkled on top.

Here you can see our dinner on Monday night-- the shepherd's pie didn't broil as long as I might have because we were hungry :)


Hope you enjoy!


Unknown said...

This recipe sounds fantastic! I cannot wait to try it.

Bobby and Amanda said...

I had some extra peas, onions and potatoes i needed to get rid of so I got this bad boy in my slow cooker right now. I won't be able to broil the top, but it's gonna taste fantastic anyway. Thanks, Georgette!