Thursday, March 13, 2008

Easy as Shepherd’s Pie

On occasion, I enjoy a good hunk of chicken or lamb made right. And potatoes? Well, they’re a favorite too. So when there’s a recipe that combines both meat and potatoes, I am a happy girl. I googled shepherd’s pie months ago and found many variations of the recipe. I tweaked those recipes to fit my own taste.

A little background on this English favorite; shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with minced lamb or goat meat, hence the name shepherd’s pie. Since I absolutely adore lamb and goat meat, you would think I’d make shepherd’s pie when I get my hands on the ground meat, right? Wrong. That isn’t the case at all; I actually have never made shepherd’s pie with ground lamb or goat. Coincidentally, I never remember to make it when I have those meats in the house. I’ve always made it with an old favorite, ground turkey.

For the meat filling
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
1 1/2 lbs ground Turkey
2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp Thyme
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen peas
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mashed potatoes
(Note: Leftover mashed potatoes can be used for this recipe. It is actually recommended)
2 lbs (baking) potatoes, large cubes
1 cup milk- heavy cream can be replaced and is really good but the fat content isn’t for my waist. unfortunately.
3 tbsp butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

For potatoes, bring a pot of water and potatoes to boil.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Generally garlic is not a component for this dish but my love for garlic is illimitable and thus my secret ingredient. Turn heat down to medium, add carrots and ground meat, break up the meat evenly with a wooden spoon and cook until meat is browned. While cooking, you’ll notice the liquid fat separating from the meat mixture; I like the flavor it adds to my pie so I leave it in however if you so wish, you can drain the fat.

When water and potatoes come to boil, add salt, turn heat down to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, bring a saucepan with milk and butter up to a rolling simmer. If you overheat the milk; it will curdle and scald. Bad bad. Potatoes are done when they can be scored with a knife. Drain in a colander and place the potatoes back in the pot, add the warm milk mixture, salt and pepper and mash.

After the meat has browned, add tomato paste, thyme and Worcestershire sauce and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir frozen peas into the mixture and remove the pan from heat. Peas are delicate and excess heat can result in a green mush. To prevent a green much, remove the pan from heat after adding peas and let the mixture cool.

Spread the cooled meat mixture in a casserole dish and top it with mashed potatoes. Bake for 15- 20 minutes. If the potatoes aren’t browned, turn oven temperature to broil, and bake on top rack, 4-6 inches away from the heat, for 8 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.

After tweaking, testing and trying the recipe many times I declare my pie to be very tasty and probably the best in town, especially for those non-red-meat eaters! Go head, try it sometime…

Did you know it’s the year of the potato? Makes two of us, I didn’t either. And since it is THE year of the potato, I’ll have to make sure to consume it as much as possible to raise awareness. Don’t mind my weight, I’ll be fine. It’s the awareness that’s more important! Anyway, in spirit of celebrating the potato, Sia over at Monsoon Spice is hosting an “Ode to Potato” event. And for that, I am submitting my fabulous shepherd’s pie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Buttermilk Scones, Thanks FoodTV

Until now, scones were a far attempt in my house. Generally if it includes baking, I put it off for as long as I can; unless it's biscotti and then it’s a different story. My parents highly favor my homemade almond biscotti so every few months I make a batch and send them in mail to my parents.

This past weekend was interesting with the weather and all. On Friday the snow started early in the morning and didn't let up until Saturday afternoon. To everyone's surprise we received 8-12 inches of snow. It was the biggest storm of the season. On snowy Saturday, a close friend mentioned making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. As there wasn't a lot to do around the house, I started looking for biscuit recipes using buttermilk. (I had to finish the last of it). I came across many recipes but most required shortening or lard for a good flaky texture. Since I don’t keep either of those ingredients in my house, ever, (I know, I know- sue me), I started browsing for other foods that used buttermilk. Another dish that yielded multiple results was (Southern) Fried Chicken. Though it sounded really good, I wasn't interested in dipping, egging, redipping and frying chicken. Let's be real, it was a lazy snowed in Saturday, and I wasn't going to let anything, even cooking, get in the way of it. As you can see, when the weather turns, my mood to cook a fabulous meal also turns south.

Finally I came across a fabulous buttermilk scones recipe on FoodTV that required very few ingredients and would be a great breakfast accompaniment to our chai. Chai or Cha is Indian tea boiled with milk, sugar and variety of spices like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves. I prefer mine with just the cardamom.

After reading the reviews, I knew I had to try it. I didn’t have heavy cream for brushing but one reviewer indicates that the scones taste fine without it. Currants are optional therefore I did not add those. As previously mentioned, I am not much of a baker but this one is a fool proof recipe that I can even make. The husband enjoyed them as well and he’s not a fan of semi-sweet biscuits/scones.

Buttermilk Scones (I cut the recipe in half for the two of us. It yielded 5 medium scones.)

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add butter and mix with your fingertips to a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix just until combined. Be sure to not over work the dough. Transfer dough to a floured counter top and roll into 3/4 inch thick round. Cut into 5 wedges and place slightly separated on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm. And dunk in chai, as we always do with biscuits, scones, cookies or anything dunkable.

Speaking of the weather, after it snowed all day Friday and half of Saturday, the husband cleared the driveway and I cleared the walkway and the steps. On Sunday, the temperatures were high enough to melt most of the snow. Damn the unpredictable weather! Fortunately the higher temperatures are an indication of what’s about to come, SPRING!