Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Saturday night was my favorite Halloween party. I wasn't there. I was home recouping from the not-so-wonderful auto accident on Friday when a gal rear-ended me at about 35 mph. Friday evening was rough. Friday night was more rough. I made it through my two appointments Saturday morning. Then, I kind of had a melt-down. My whole body hurt. I was sick to my stomach. I just wanted to sleep. I kept working because there was so much to do but I reached the point I couldn't do any more. So, the couch at the office beckoned. Nap time. Connie said he was going to call Judy and tell her we couldn't make it. :-( Judy and Carl's parties are the best. And, I didn't get to go. So, enough whining. On the way home from the office I was busy tearing apart the latest Everyday Food. It had a recipe for a Cottage Pie. Similar to Shepard's Pie but with thinly sliced potatoes on top instead of mashed potatoes. Sign me up. It looked really easy to prepare. Even better. And, standing feels a lot better than sitting so cooking is better than blogging about it.
The recipe calls for either ground beef or lamb. I knew I had ground beef in the freezer that needed to be used up. Next time, I'll use the lamb. It has a subtlety of flavor that the ground beef doesn't and I think it'd add a lot to this dish. The original recipe called for two tablespoons of tomato paste, a cup of beer and a cup of water. By the time I got the tomato paste and the cup of beer added, I knew it'd need more flavor. I kept adding tomato paste until the entire 4 oz can was empty. Then, I kept pouring in beer until the entire can was empty. It still needed more flavor. Fine, a quarter of a cup of red wine went in along with three very thinly sliced garlic cloves. Ah, now we're talking. The step that got me was when the recipe said to sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over the top and stir it in. Really? I've never added flour as anything other than a slurry (flour and liquid mixture) when adding it to an almost finished dish like this. I was very tempted to do it the way I've always done it but decided the worst that could happen was a few small lumps. And, guess what, it worked perfectly. The last change I made was to put about a cup of grated sharp cheddar on top of the meat sauce. I couldn't taste it in the finished dish but my guess is it added another layer of good flavor.
Connie said the cottage pie tasted like pot roast. He was so right. The liquid cooked up into the potatoes and they absorbed all that flavor like little sponges. The tomato paste and beer and red wine made the most scrumptious sauce. There are so many variations you can make with this recipe. Chicken or turkey or pork with leeks and shallots and carrots and a lighter beer and white wine. It's also a recipe that's easy to double or triple for company. We'll definitely be making this again!
1 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 T tomato paste
coarsely ground salt and pepper
1 lb ground beef or lamb
2 t fresh thyme leaves (it's fine to substitute with dried)
1 1/2 c dark beer
1/4 c red wine (cabernet or zinfandel would be best)
2 T flour
3/4 c frozen peas
1 c grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 large russet potato very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
2 T olive oil
coarsely ground salt and pepper
In a large saucepan or skillet, saute the onion, carrots and garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil.
Cook them for about five minutes until the onion is softened.
Add the tomato paste and stir it in. Add the ground beef or lamb and stir it in. (My hamburger was frozen so I browned it first in another saucepan.)
Make sure you don't have a lot of big chunks of meat. Cook the meat until it's almost cooked through. Add the beer, wine and thyme and bring to a boil. Allow the liquid to reduce slightly - about 2 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir it in quickly. Add the peas.
Pour the mixture into a casserole dish.
Top with the grated cheddar.
Cover with the potato slices. They need to be VERY finely sliced.
You want the slices to slightly overlap.
Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil over the potatoes then season them with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes after removing it from the oven. This will allow it to set up a bit so you won't have quite as much liquid running around your plates.