It has been freezing these days in Berkeley. So last Friday when I had friends over for dinner, I knew what I had to make. Of course, what I really wanted to make was Molly's parsley pesto again, which to be honest I've been making almost compulsively since we first made it last week. (Is three times in a week a lot?) But I knew I needed to have something more substantial, something warm and comforting. In the kitchen I found an unassuming bag of russet potatoes and then it hit me - those two words: shepherd's pie. It was the idea I had been looking for and didn't know, and/but heck - I'm always looking for excuses to turn on our gas oven. (It heats up our house nicely.)
It was raining (torrentially, I might add) that day, but I was not going to let that keep me from getting ground beef. Armed with an umbrella, I hiked up my jeans and headed to the store.
Actually, to tell you the truth, the whole time I had arguments with myself as to whether or not it was a good idea. Though my jeans stayed dry, my shoes and feet did not. I thought to myself, is it time to get polka dotted rainboots or fake Uggs? I hope not. But as I continued along and thought about the hot and bubbly creamy mashed potatoes on top of tasty ground beef, I came to my senses. And I'm glad I did. It truly was a good day to make shepherd's pie.
We had the pie with a salad, Greek-ish: baby greens, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and feta with a vinaigrette made from lemon zest and juice, olive oil, coarse kosher sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Of course we had a fresh warm loaf of bread, too, and I probably could have just eaten that and been content, but then again - no, the pie was to die for, even worth the cost of getting drenched in the rain.
So, whether or not it's raining today where you live, let me tell you: today is a good day to make shepherd's pie.
Okay, now that I've written you a beautiful, heartfelt post, it's time for you to send me/us some love! My shameless plug:
Our blog is powered by Blogger and your comments. Really. Comments equals love, says Stephanie. Maybe you thought you need a blogger account to comment. You don't! In fact, you don't even need a gmail account. (Though they are pretty spiffy.) So leave us some love; let us know you stopped by. Don't remain a stalker - a closet love-is-cooking-reader, if you will - like some. Ahem. (End shameless plug.)
Now for the recipe...
For the potatoes:
5 medium sized potatoes (peeled or not)
1 tablespoon butter
roughly half a cup of milk
salt and pepper
For the filling/pie:
1.5 pounds ground beef
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
half a bag of frozen green peas
1 tablespoon oil
1 packet mushroom gravy mix (I know, most gourmets don't have this kind of stuff sitting around, but yanno. It is okay to go out in the rain for this ingredient. I promise it'll be worth it.)
Preheat oven to 400.
Potatoes. Boil salted water for potatoes. Throw in diced potatoes and boil, covered, until cooked, about 20 minutes. (I left the skins on, and some fell off while cooking, so I had about 1/3 of the skins in my mashed potatoes. This was the effect I wanted, as so really, my laziness paid off for me this time!) Drain, and to a large bowl, add potatoes (with however much skin you like), milk, butter, salt and pepper and mix with a hand beater or potato masher until smooth. Adjust milk to desired consistency. It's better to err on the wet side since it dries a bit in the oven.
Filling. While potatoes are boiling, heat oil in large pan. Add onions and sautee until they are lighter in color. Add carrots stir and cover, allowing them to cook, about 10 minutes. Set vegetables aside and cook ground meat in pan; drain if there is excess fat. Combine meat with vegetables, then add frozen peas and heat until peas are brought to the same temperature as the rest. Sprinkle mushroom gravy mix (don't add water!) to mixture and stir to combine.
Putting it all together. Spread meat mixture on bottom of 9x13 pan. Spread potatoes on top; leave it rough so that it browns nicely. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes until warmed through and nicely browned. (Recipes online said until "hot and bubbly." I wanted mine to get bubbly, but it started getting too dark before it ever got there. Am I a failure?)
Serve with salad, bread, all the good stuff.