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November 25, 2011 / beatricebunny


The first two years of our marriage, my husband and I lived in different states.  Year one, I was in Kentucky and he was in Illinois; year two he was in Tennessee and I was in North Carolina.  As a result, we started a tradition of spending Thanksgiving together, just the two of us.  We go to the farmers market the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and my husband picks whatever dish he wants me to make.  This year, he asked me to make Shepherd’s Pie, a house favorite.

While I was picking up my meat CSA at the market was annoying me by waxing eloquent about “authentic” shepherds pie.  He went on and on about how you can’t make shepherd’s pie with ground beef, it has to be made with lamb, and how you must include this ingredient or that ingredient…  This, of course, is absurd.  Shepherd’s pie is peasant food, and like oral tradition and moonshine there is no “right way” to make it.  Poor farmers stuffed whatever meat and veggies they had on hand into it.  I follow this tradition, so mine is a little different every time.  Today, I used hot sausage, ground beef, and ground lamb and added carrots and onions.

I made a festive little cocktail while I cooked: vodka, ginger liquor, sprite, and maraschino cherries in juice.

Shepherd’s pie isn’t time consuming, so it didn’t especially interfere with our time together watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and our annual hike.  (This year, we did the lovely Radnor Lake lake trail.)  It is, however, a lovely fall dish, and it involves homemade mashed potatoes, which I seldom make.  That makes it holiday special.  As an added bonus, there is plenty left for the rest of the weekend.

My Shepherd’s Pie recipe is very basic, and given how meaty it is, it’s ironic that I started, many years ago, with a Moosewood Recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie alternative from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. I highly recommend this book to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, but my recipe is so far removed as to be non-recognizable.

I used: 3 pounds of red skinned potatoes, 6 small carrots (chopped), 1 large onion (chopped), 1 pound each of sausage, ground beef, and ground lamb.  8 ounces of mushrooms.  3 tbsp of soy sauce. Spices included garlic, salt, pepper, and dried thyme.  2 tbsp of cornstarch mixed with warm water. Milk, cream, and butter.  Cheese.

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Start the potatoes boiling in salted water.
Saute all three meats together in a large skillet.  Add salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme.  Once browned, remove with slotted spoon to casserole dish.
Saute onions and carrots in fat from meat.  Add to casserole dish.
Add mushrooms to fat from meat.  Saute until fat has sweated through mushrooms.  Add 1/2 cup liquid from the cooking potatoes.  Boil.  Add soy sauce.  Add cornstarch mixture.  Mix often until you get a nice gravy.  Add pepper.  DO NOT SALT GRAVY.  If too thick, add more potato water to thin.  Pour over carrots and meat in casserole dish.
Make mashed potatoes.  (Mix potatoes, which should be soft, with butter, milk, and cream.  Add anything that makes your favorite mashed potatoes – I like a little sour cream and a little mozzarella.)  Add salt and pepper.  Spoon over gravy.  Sprinkle cheese on top.
Pop into oven until cheese is melted and edges of the potato are slightly browned.
Serve immediately.

We had a nice Rhone wine and no sides.  Lovely.

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And now we are headed to the new Muppets movie. Happy Thanksgiving!!


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