Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fully Capable of This Shepherd Business

I am trying to enjoy this streak of warm weather. I really am. It’s just that…I’m completely in fall-mode and there’s no way around it. I can’t do summer anymore. Not in November. I’ll be ready for summer again sometime around February. I can be robbed of my winter and be forgiving. But not my fall.

Fall is the best time to eat a fantastic meal then snuggle under the covers. It’s when your bedroom is finally cool enough that you never want to untangle yourself from your down comforter; when you get all nice and toasty in one spot, and then roll over onto the cool spot of the bed, catching a small breeze from the chilly air outside of the bed so you burrow even deeper under the covers. Fall is always the time of year that I wish I could morph into a bear and hibernate for the winter.

So, even though it was 65 and sunny the other day when I ventured to the store, I was longing for cool-weather food. Something warm. Rich. Dark. Filling. Flavorful.

I had every intention of making some sort of Philly Cheesesteak-style dish until I stumbled across some ground lamb and decided on shepherd’s pie instead. I’d had shepherd’s pie before, so I understood the gist of it as I stood there with the lamb in my basket, trying to remember what other ingredients I might need. This is the kind of moment that cell phones are for, right? I’ll simply call my stepfather…who happens to have a killer shepherd’s pie recipe… I’ll just reach into my purse here… wait, what? No phone? Great. Perfect. I forgot my phone at home. Oh well, no big deal, I’ll just look up a recipe on… my… phone. Hmm. I didn’t realize how I much I rely on that little thing to get me through the day.

I let myself get flustered for about 2 seconds, and then I remembered that I am Fully Capable of Figuring Shit Out.

With the words warm/rich/dark/filling/flavorful, along with the mental image of an actual phone-less shepherd, serving as my inspiration, I grabbed potatoes, an onion, garlic, an eggplant, and a Portobello mushroom. After a quick internal run-through of my at-home staples (Red wine, check. Butter, check. Thyme and oregano, check. Tomato paste, check.), I ushered my herd of groceries home. I then proceeded to pour myself a glass of wine, reference a few shepherd’s pie recipes in my cookbooks to make sure I wasn’t totally out of my mind, spread my flock of ingredients out on the counter, and figure it out.

The beauty of a dish like shepherd’s pie is that you really can’t screw it up, so you might as well just throw whatever you want in the pot. You’ll be O.K. There is no one authentic recipe that you must adhere to; there are no strict rules. Every shepherd is different. Here’s the way this shepherd made her pie.

Recipe for Pseudo-Chic-Urban-Shepherd’s Pie:
  • A pound of ground lamb
  • One medium onion, diced
  • One Portobello mushroom, sliced
  • Eggplant, diced into small cubes, about ½ cup
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tbsp red wine (aka, a generous splash. Seriously. Don't actually measure this.)
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Potatoes, butter and cream for mashed potatoes

Make mashed potatoes by boiling cubes of potatoes until tender; drain, then mash with cream, butter, salt and pepper.

In a heavy pot with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic, mushroom and eggplant, and cook for several minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with salt, pepper, one tsp of thyme and one tsp of oregano. Stir in the wine, and let simmer for a minute or two. It should smell reallllllly gooooooood. And it should look warm/rich/dark/filling/flavorful:

Add the ground lamb to the pot and mix. Add the remaining tsp of thyme and oregano, and season with a little more S & P. Once everything has been combined and the meat has started to brown, cover the pot to let the meat finish cooking.

Heat the oven to 350. Spoon the lamb mixture into a pie plate and spread out to fill the bottom. Spread the mashed potatoes out over the top of the meat, and score the edges with a fork. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Drink wine, eat the pie, and then pass out under a down comforter until next spring.


A. Lanigan said...

My new favorite quote is "I am fully capable of figuring shit out." Great work!

Veronica said...

Thanks Ange! I'm thinking about making it an acronym: FCoFSO.