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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shepherd's Pie and Brown Soda Bread

We had an Irish meal for St. Patty's Day.  A shepherd's pie w/ some brown soda bread.  Ron had some Irish Ale as a side and followed up with a green shamrock whoopie pie.  It was a nice, relaxing evening and a lovely end to a beautiful, sunny day (nevermind the fact that we're both sick).  However, preparation for this meal was pretty time-consuming! So, it is certainly something to enjoy when you have a longer period of time to cook.  I'm in a week where I an afford (who am I kidding?) to spare some longer hours in the kitchen.  I've prepped for most of my classes for the next week and I'm about to dive into 3 straight weeks of pure hell.  So, I deserved it :)  Anyway, the bread took about 1.5 hours.  The cookies took about 2 hours (from start to finish).  And this pie?  Well, it was very involved.  I actually decided to make the potatoes the night earlier (~35 minutes) to cut some of the time in half. But, the prep work for the meat part of the meal took a full hour and then some!

Granted, there was some down time in between the steps, but it is certainly not a quick weeknight meal!  The recipe was very easy to make.  I ended up baking the pie in a 8 inch baking dish.  I didn't have a 10 inch baking dish and this recipe makes a ton!  I had no idea what size to use.  I ended up leaving about a 3/4 cup of mashed potatoes out because I didn't think I could pack any more in the dish.  I used very large potatoes, so maybe I used bigger potatoes.  This is why I prefer recipes that give measurements in weight/volume/ounces/etc.  It's easier to make the recipe as perfect as the original chef!  The baking dish worked ok, but it still managed to overflow onto the bottom of the oven.  

The St. Patty's Day meal was generally a success.  Even though the shepherd's pie isn't completely irish (I guess traditional shepherd's pies use lamb.  But, EEK!  Lamb?  No thanks!) the meal was still incredible and a fun way to celebrate Ron's Irish roots.  Plus, it was my first attempt to make mashed potatoes.  They turned out awesome.  They were so quick and easy.  And, I plan to make them often.  The bread recipe is lighter than your traditional bread, but it is a super healthy version.  It does not skimp on flavor by any means.  Ron loved it and that's saying something if it's a lighter/healthy version.  I love Irish oats, so this bread will be made in this household often.  I recommend spreading with apple butter for a delicious breakfast.

I couldn't get a really good picture of the Shepherd's pie when it was cut open.  It actually looked really greasy, so I decided it was best not to post an unappetizing photo.  Even though the pie was good, I doubt I'll be making it again.  It took way too long for the taste.  It was really thick and I'm not such a fan of red meat and bacon.  But, that's just my personal preference.  
Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Food Network (Melissa d'Arabian)
Yield:  6 -8 servings
  • For Potatoes
    • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
    • 10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
    • 1/2 c sour cream
    • 1/4 - 1/2 beef broth
    • 4 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • nonstick cooking spray
  • For Filling
    • 4 slices bacon, cut into thin strips
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 2 medium onions, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt, plus 1/2 tsp
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 2 - 3 medium carrots, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
    • 3/4 c frozen peas, thawed
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 tbsp AP flour
    • 1 (12-ounce) bottle light or dark beer
    • 1/2 c beef broth
    • 1 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 c grated swiss or cheddar cheese (I left out)
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves)
  1. Prepare potato topping:  In a large saucepan, add potatoes and garlic and cover w/ cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large bowl.  Add sour cream, 1/4 c of the broth, butter, salt and pepper, and beat on low speed with a hand mixer until the potatoes are light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.  If the mixture is too dry, add the remaining 1/4 c broth.  Do not overmix.  Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 10-inch round baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Prepare filling:  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and almost crisp, about 7-8 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a place and set side.
  4. Add the oil to the drippings in the skillet and put over medium heat.  Add the onions and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle in the sugar and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the beef and cook over medium-high heat until the beef begins to brown, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the carrots, peas, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, until well-blended, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the beer, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Cook, stirring w/ a wooden spoon, and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add the cooked bacon, the broth, rosemary, 1/2 tsp of salt, and the pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  10. Spoon the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Spread the potato topping evenly over the beef mixture.  Bake until the filling is hot, the topping is lightly browned and the edges are bubbly, about 35 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.
  12. Return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.
  13. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Brown Soda Bread
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield:  12 servings (1 slice)
  • Cooking spray
  • 11.25 oz whole-wheat flour (about 2.5 cups)
  • 2.25 oz AP flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp wheat germ (I used wheat bran)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 c low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper, and coat with cooking spray.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt).  Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture.  Stir until just combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely.
  6. Remove parchment and slice!

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