Shepherd's Pie

Story Recipe

One winter day, I was about to walk past Frank's place when I got a sniff of something delicious. There was a hint of ganja in the smell, so I decided to drop in. I was slapping my hands together to get the frozen blood flowing again while Frank pulled a round dish out of the oven. He plopped the dish on a trivet and announced that dinner was ready. The dish looked like mashed potatoes in a pie pan, but when Frank cut into it, gravy oozed out. He placed a wedge of potatoes, meat and vegetables on a plate and pushed it over to me. I cut the tip of the wedge with my fork to get a scoop of all the ingredients. Steam scented with garlic and Indica rose in shimmering ribbons from my fork until I blew the heat away. The bite was perfect - The smooth texture of potatoes, chewy bits of meat and the pop of peas and carrots entertained my mouth. Peppery gravy, sweet vegetables and aromatic garlic thrilled my pallet. Warm buttery potatoes thawed me from the inside while a hint of weed began to work its way up to my brain. My fork worked the trail from plate to mouth until the entire wedge was transported and I was content.

Frank got the look in his eye and his lips curled up in the smile he uses to signify that the Indica was doing its work. I think the subject that night was the possibilities for founding colonies on Mars. I don't know if we solved the problems of space travel that night, but I do know that I got out of there with the recipe for Shepherd's Pie.

Plan on about an hour and a half to make this dish. This is a dish to serve to friends, so give yourself at least an hour for the meal and social time. Leave a half hour after the meal to clean up all the dishes you are going to mess up. Don't worry about all the effort, it is going to be worth it.

There are three cooking processes - boil, season and mash the potatoes, brown the meat, and finally, cook the pie. Before you start cooking, get out a big sauce pan, a frying pan and a pie pan. Stick a colander in the sink and set up your cutting board. You'll need all the usual tools - measuring cups, stirring spoons, bowls, can openers and so on.

The groceries for the pie include - potatoes, half and half, Beurre Vert, an egg, onion carrots, ground lamb, frozen corn and frozen peas. You will also need a bunch of herbs and spices and some pantry items.

First, peel, rough dice and boil a pound and a half of potatoes. I like russets for this recipe. They have the perfect mashed potato texture. Be sure to use plenty of water and add a good amount of salt. When a fork slides easily into a potato cube, they are done. Pour them into the colander to drain and then, dump them back in the pot. Be sure the stove is off, but put the pot back on the stove to use the left over heat to evaporate some of the water.

Put a quarter cup of half and half in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of Buerre Vert. Stick the bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them up. Pour this over the potatoes and mash them up. Taste the mash to make sure the salt and pepper is right. If you like garlic, this is the time to add a bit to the potatoes. It is not traditional, but if you have some grated cheese around, toss that in there too. Put the spuds aside and set oven to 400 degrees.

Chop up an onion, two carrots and some garlic. Heat up your frying pan with some oil in it. When it is hot, add the onion and carrots. After a couple of minutes, when the onions are just about to turn brown, add the garlic and a pound and a half of ground lamb with some salt and pepper. Use your spatula to break the lamb into small pieces and keep frying until all the meat is brown. Sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over the meat and keep stirring. While you are stirring, add two teaspoons of tomato paste and a teaspoon of Worchester sauce, some herbs (I like rosemary and time for this), and a cup of chicken broth. Bring the pan to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. By then the sauce should have thickened a bit from the flour.

Add in the peas and carrots to the frying pan and get the pie pan. Pour the meat mixture into the pie pan until it is two thirds full. Top this with a layer of mashed potatoes. Pay attention to the edges to make sure that the potatoes go all the way to the edge. Also, don't make the surface too smooth. The hills and ridges of the potatoes will brown and get crispy - that is good stuff. Depending on the size of your pie pan, you may have left overs. Pop these in the fridge for later or to grab if too many unexpected guests show up.

Slide the pie pan into the oven and let it cook for 25 minutes or until the tops of the potatoes are brown. Pull the cooked pie out and try to let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Don't stress about this step. In the history of shepherd's pie, no one has successfully completed this waiting period. Just be careful not to burn your mouth.




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