Thursday, February 18, 2010

Comfort Food: Shepherd's Pie

In the thick of comfort food season, I made my first ever shepherd's pie. It might be the first shepherd's pie I've ever tasted, in fact. They used to serve it sometimes at the dining hall in college and often when I  was in Scotland, but I didn't trust it. Something about the meat and vegetables hiding under a layer of mashed potatoes, which I assumed were there to mask the look and perhaps taste of the unpleasant brown mush below. But, nevertheless, I got it in my head to make this on my own. (The main reason being that I need more recipes with ground beef, the least expensive type of grass-fed meat--unless you want to delve into offal. Though I should also mention, this recipe is supposed to be made with a meat mixture of at least half ground lamb.)

I didn't have high hopes as I heated my pan and began sauteing onions and carrots and broke apart the meat with a spoon.At least the recipe would yield leftovers and the ingredients were simple enough that it seemed pretty safe. As I added the beef broth, stirred in a generous teaspoon of rosemary, and tossed a heap of Italian parsley over the top, I was won over by a heavenly smell. I dipped a spoon in, tasted, and it was surprisingly full of flavor.

As the pie baked in the oven, I went outside to run an errand. In the cold and the dark, I walked along an icy path. It was tedious going, trying to find my grip. Before long, I'd pulled what I needed from the car and, hugging my arms at the elbows, hurried back to the front door. The heavenly smell greeted me again when I came in--the smell of warmth, of onions and potatoes and savories cooking somewhere close by.

This pie is a keeper. I would suggest the fresh rosemary if you can get it. I'm sure this would be at least twice as delicious with lamb. Lastly, I'd suggest adding a little more broth than called for to prevent the bottom layer from getting dry. I admit also that I should have let it brown a little longer . . .

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