Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

My friend Sally bragged yesterday that she and her (going-to-be) husband Phil were going to have Shepherd's Pie for dinner. It got me thinking. I had only tried to make Shepherd's Pie once, several years ago, and at that point had only a very vague understanding of it. Meat. Potatoes. Cheese. How could you screw it up? Well I didn't, but it wasn't anything to write home about either.

So I decided to give it another shot for dinner last night. What follows is what I did. Not a recipe, per se, but a general guide. My methods might be a bit odd, but I got the job done.

I started out by washing what was left of a bag of potatoes. I'd guess there were maybe 3 pounds. We like us some taters. I then used the mandoline that Jen got me for Christmas to slice them. I learned that my mandoline would rather cut long strips of short vegetables, than short strips of tall vegetables. Potatoes went in a pot with water and a handful of salt and left to their own devices.

Next up I melted some butter in my big happy pan and added some garlic-in-a-jar. Rinsed off the mandoline and used it - this time with the "julienne" blade - to chop up half a sweet onion. It turned out more grated than chopped, and I would have done the whole onion but I was getting a little ticked off at the mandoline. But it was fine. With those softened a bit, in went half a pound of pre-cut baby portabella mushrooms, plus a generous pinch of salt and several shakes of pepper. Let them be at not-quite a sautee for a few minutes, stirred once in a while, til the shrooms started to give up some liquid. Then in went two pounds of ground beef. Stir stir, smoosh smoosh (that's a technical term), sit sit. Repeat until ground beef is almost nearly done. Then I added what was left of a bag of frozen mixed veggies we had in the freezer and let it all come back up to temp and let the beef finish cooking. Finally, added two cans of undiluted cream of mushroom soup, mixed well, and turned the stove off and the oven on. About 350.

By then the potatoes were done, so they got drained and put back on the stove. Added a stick of butter and let it sit for a few to let the butter melt. Then I discovered that my potato masher was at the bottom of the pile of dirty dishes. So rather than wash it and mash them, I just went at them with some tongs. I know, not exactly the usual implement of distruction to use on potatoes, but it worked. Added a can of cheddar cheese "soup" to the potatoes, salt & peppered it all, and stirred til it was all the funny off-white color that the soup made them. Might be good to mention here that I did not PEEL the potatoes, because I'm too lazy for that and the skin won't kill you.

All this went in a pan - the ground beef mixture on the bottom and the potatoes spread on top, and then a layer of shredded cheese (I used mexican style pre-shredded because it was what we had) on top of that. Stuck it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

Five minutes later I realized the funny noise I kept hearing was the overflow of burger grease in the pan burning onto the bottom of our oven. Locked up all the animals and opened all the doors. Did I mention it was something like 20 degrees with the wind chill last night? Finally decided that the cheese was melted enough, pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for several minutes.

Annie and Shylent were impressed - Hell so was I. But next time I'm using the giant turkey roasting pan instead of the pyrex 13 x 9. And maybe some french fried onions on top.

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