Monday, January 6, 2014

The Beginnings Of A Pie A Shepherd Would Be Proud Of

And so it I mentioned in my previous post, this year Ginger Rose will be looking a little different as I begin to share my experiences in recipe development, taking you through all of the stages I experience in creating a recipe that I will eventually give the stamp "From Ginger Rose's Kitchen", meaning it has been tested, tweaked, and revised until I am satisfied with the tasty results enough to call it my own. 

My first adventure in recipe development for 2014 reflects the icy, arctic, colder-than-Mars weather Torontonians have been experiencing as of late. Shepherds pie, in my opinion, is one of those staple comfort foods that this freezing weather just begs for. In the past, the only Shepherds Pie that I have attempted has been my Leftover Lovin' Pulled Pork Shepherds Pie, which featured leftover spicy, juicy, and flavourful pulled pork as the base. With such flavourful meat (simmering it for hours upon hours in a spicy sauce certainly helps) it's easy to create a spectacular dish, so starting from the bottom with plain old ground beef or what is traditionally used, lamb, can be a bit of a challenge. After much research, I put together a basic recipe for Shepherds Pie that I think is a great start to get me to that final, delicious, savoury, pie that would make any shepherd proud! Although I would have loved to have used lamb as the base for my shepherds pie, I began my experimentation with lean ground beef, a more cost friendly option as myself, and I know many of my readers, are on a budget. Due to convenience, I also used yukon gold potatoes for my mashed potato topping, as opposed to the preferred Russet baking potato, simply because that is what I had on hand. Using yellow potatoes won't make a huge difference in your final product, but it will slightly affect the texture, as baking potatoes are higher in starch and sugar than the yellow variety, which is waxy, with less starch, and less sugar. The below Shepherds Pie is a lovely and simple Shepherds Pie for first timers. Give the recipe a try and share your notes with me! What did you like or not like about the recipe? What would you add or change? I want to know! I hope you find this recipe as comforting as I did! Stay warm out there kiddies! 

* Cooking until softened is also known as "sweating". Sweating means to cook something until softened,  but without adding any colour. This is often done at medium to medium-low heat or for a very short time at medium-high heat.
** Mashed potatoes may be made in advance. Leftover mashed potatoes work great!

4 potatoes (preferably Russet baking potatoes), peeled and cut into medium chunks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, small dice
2 medium carrots, small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste (use white pepper for mashed potatoes)
1.5 Ib lean ground beef 
2 tbsp flour
5 tsp tomato paste 
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire  
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
paprika, to dust on mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 450º.
  2. Place potatoes in a small pot and fill with enough water to cover 1-inch over the potatoes. Bring water to a boil, then drop heat and simmer until tender (about 20-minutes). 
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan (large enough to fit ground beef) set to medium hear, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the onions and cook until softened*. When the onion begins to soften, add the carrot and cook until slightly softened. In the last minute of cooking, add the garlic. 
  4. Add the beef to the vegetable mixture and break up with a spatula. Cook until all meat has browned and no red remains. 
  5. While meat is cooking, drain the potatoes. Return the potatoes to the pot and set to medium heat. Dry the potatoes for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Mash the potatoes and add the milk, butter, and cheddar cheese, stir to incorporate. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.**
  6. When meat has browned, add flour to beef and stir to coat. Cook for 1-minute. While it is cooking, add the tomato paste.
  7. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Add Worcestershire and thyme and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced. 
  8. Add the peas, Sriracha, and cayenne. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper, and additional hot sauce.
  9. Spread meat mixture evenly in a 10.5 x 12.5 glass baking dish. Top evenly with mashed potatoes making sure to create a seal around all of the edges so that the mixture does not bubble up to the surface during cooking. Sprinkle the top lightly with paprika. Bake for 25-minutes. Cook 3-4 minutes and serve hot. 
Notes for next time:
  • I would like to try using dried thyme, adding it into my vegetable mixture as it softens. I think this flavour may work better.
  • Add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn niblets for more flavour and texture.
  • Add more tomato paste.
  • Play with other flavour enhancers.
Listening To:

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