Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shepherd's Pie w/ Beer Gravy

A couple of years ago I did prep for an Irish Pub in So Cal. The owners of the place owned several other eateries in the area, and while the menu mainly consisted of standard bar/comfort food, there were a few staples of Irish Pub food, such as Corned Beef and Cabbage and Shepherd's Pie. I enjoyed the latter so much that I came up with my own version. I need hardly extoll the fabulous taste of this dish, except to say the gravy, veggies, beef and homemade mashed potatoes just work together.

If you'd like to make a vegetarian version of this recipe you can substitute the beef for 1 pound of Texturized Vegetable Protein soaked in mushroom stock for 20 minutes on a 1:1 ratio, and one large sprig of rosemary, or if you prefer you could poach 1 lb. of Tempeh in low sodium vegetable stock and when it has softened (about 15 - 20 minutes) fluff it apart with a fork.

I like to serve my Shepherd's Pie with a bag of prewashed Arugula (sometimes called Rocket), dressed very simply with the juice of 1/2 a small lemon, a small glug of Olive Oil (less than 1 Tablespoon) and a pinch of salt. The peppery greens are a light and zesty compliment to the rich and meaty taste of the pie. If your supermarket doesn't stock arugula (as you can see from the picture my nearby one didn't; that's butter lettuce posing beside the Shepherd's Pie), use the greens of your choice and add a small dash of freshly ground pepper, to compliment the acidity of fresh lemon.

Shepherd's Pie
Makes 6 - 8 servings

Pie filling:
1 lb. ground beef (the best fat to lean ratio to use is 10fat/90lean)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Medium onion, diced
2/3 Cup carrots, shredded (you can buy it this way from the store), or diced
1/2 Cup frozen shelled petite peas
2/3 of a 12 oz. bottle of a darker ale, such as an IPA or Porter (1 cup)
1 1/2 Cup milk, anything with more fat than skim
1 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: a pinch each of any or all of the following fresh herbs: Thyme, Rosemary and Sage

Mashed potatoes:
6 Medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup of milk, or more to taste
2 Quarts (8 cups) water

1. Add water, salt and potatoes to pot and bring to a boil. Cook until soft (they can be easily pierced with a fork), about 12-15 minutes. Reserve 1/4 of a cup of the cooking water to add to the potatoes, then drain. Add butter, cooking water and milk to potatoes as you mash them, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. When there are no lumps and your potatoes are creamy, cover to keep warm and set aside.

2. In a smaller pot, blanch the carrots and peas in boiling water seasoned with a small pinch of salt (about 3 minutes), then drain and set aside.

3. In a saucepan combine 2 Tablespoons butter and onions. Cook on medium until onions are translucent (about 3 minutes). If you have fresh herbs, now would be the time to toss them in. Add beef and some salt and pepper and cook until browned (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently.
4. Add beer and simmer about 15 minutes, until the carbonation has been cooked out and some of the alcohol as well.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Add milk and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add flour, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time, to thicken gravy.

7. Add carrots and peas, stir to combine and transfer to an ungreased baking pan.

8. Using a rubber spatula or similarly shaped utensil, cover the pie filling in an even layer of mashed potatoes and bake for 15 minutes so the ingredients can set together.

9. Serve alongside dressed arugula and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Cook's note: pictures to follow.

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