Celebrating 28

We celebrated ted_badger‘s 28th birthday with a little party. As usual I ended up making more food than necessary. I think it’s a genetic trait as my sister does the same thing apparently.

Anywho here’s the menu…

Badenjan Dip
Roasted Brussels Spouts on crustini
Frito with Radish Slaw
Assorted pickles, olives and artichoke hearts
Vegetable & french onion dip
Cheese & crackers

Main dishes
BBQ Pork Butt
Hot dogs
Veggie burgers
Orecchiette and chickpeas

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Pinenut & Honey Tart
Molasses Clove Cookies

Saturday night – 05/01/2010

Smaller than usual group this week. Just 8 of us including the 3 kids. Both the vegetarian and the beef allergic friend were absent so I went with the first meat integrated beef meal I could think of. Ted finished the last 1/2 portion for lunch today. It was apparently good.

Shepherd’s Pie

Peach sorbet, raspberries & bubbles for dessert

Shepherd’s Pie

This isn’t the shepherd’s pie I grew up with nor is it the one I used to make for a friend who loved it. This one is more “grown-up”.

It took time to put all this together. I think from start of prep until “ready for the oven” was 75 minutes. Both the mushrooms & onions take a while to do their thing.

10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2.5# beef (I used top-blade steak), 1/2″ cube
2 onions, medium dice
1 pkg. Trader Joe’s roasted corn
3# potatoes, 1″ dice
fresh thyme
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef stock
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup light cream
Bacon fat or whatever oil/fat you want to work with
salt & pepper

Prep work

  • Melt 2 Tbsp. bacon fat in a non-stick skillet over low heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until cooked. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add the potatoes to cold salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes until a fork enters the potato easily. When done strain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add 1/2 the butter and the light cream. Use a potato masher to make mashed potatoes. Lumpy is OK if that’s the way you like it. Set aside.
  • Add a bit more bacon fat and heat the skillet to high. Brown the meat, doing multiple batches if necessary so that you don’t crowd the pan. Season each batch with salt & pepper. Strain each batch after the meat is well browned, saving the liquid. The goal here is to brown the meat, not cook it through.
  • After all the meat is cooked reduce the heat to medium-low, add another tablespoon of bacon fat and when it’s melted add the onions. Cook until the onions are transparent.
  • Add the bag of frozen roasted corn to the onions. Cook until the corn is thawed. Season with salt & pepper and taste. Add the fresh thyme.
  • Add 1/2 of the stick of butter cut into 4 1-Tbsp. pieces. Let the butter melt and toss with the corn & onions. When combined set aside.
  • Return the reserved liquid from the strained beef to the skillet along with, yup, more bacon fat. You want to end up with about 1/4 cup of liquid/fat total. When the fat is melted add the flour and mix to combine. We are making a roux.
  • Add about 1/2 the beef stock and mix thoroughly. You want the gravy to be smooth and the flour needs to cook a bit so it doesn’t taste like, well, flour.
  • Add the rest of the beef stock and again mix thoroughly. Cook for about 60 seconds.
  • Add the beef & mushrooms to the gravy and stir to coat. Set aside.

Now we are ready for assembly.

  • Dump the beef, mushrooms & gravy in the bottom of a 13″x9″ glass baking dish.
  • Layer the corn & onion mixture over the beef layer and spread so it’s an even layer.
  • Cover the corn with the mashed potatoes. Again spread so you have an even layer. If you look from the side you want to see the strata.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven. You probably want to slide a cookie sheet onto the rack below the baking dish as this will probably bubble over somewhere unexpected.

Remove the foil after 30 minutes and allow to bake for another 15 minutes. Hopefully the top will brown a bit.

Now the hard part. After removing from the oven allow the dish to sit for 5-10 minutes. You could eat it right away but you’d burn your mouth and then you wouldn’t really enjoy the rest, would you.