It being almost St. Patrick’s Day, I’m feeling the urge to make some sort of representative dish. I will certainly make corned beef and cabbage on Thursday, but since I’m not corning my own beef, I don’t think that recipe is really blog worthy – “Go to the grocery store, buy some corned beef, cook in a large pot…” I’ve already posted my Colcannon recipe, which I suspect I’ll make this week too. So I thought, well, Shepherd’s Pie is decently Irish enough. I think most people associate England with it, but those Irish make it too. It can also be called Cottage Pie. And since it’s just a dish of meat and potatoes, the variations are endless!
I originally meant to make this even more interesting by adding butternut squash in the potato mash, but when I started to get all of my ingredients together on the counter, I noticed that my butternut squash that had been waiting to be used had gotten soft and wrinkled. And so, rather than having a kitchen meltdown (which I seem to be apt to do), I said, well that’s just fine, the sweet potatoes will be wonderful on their own. Had I had a kitchen meltdown (because I was really looking forward to using butternut squash in this recipe), I think I would have been excused this time. I’m training for a half marathon that’s coming up on April 10th, and I had run 11 miles that afternoon and was pretty hungry for dinner. And since it had been declared, unbeknownst to me, Household Nap Time at around 4:30, I had to patiently wait to go to the grocery store until the two kitties and Joe woke up from their cuddlefest on the couch. (Joe had said he wanted to come to the grocer’s with me – I am capable of doing it myself normally). So around 6:30 we finally ventured out and got our ingredients. So this meant that dinner was ready at almost 10:00. Ugh. I was pretty ready to eat.
Typically Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb or mutton. This is made with a combination of sweet Italian sausage and beef. I’ve never had mutton, I don’t think, but I’d love to make this another time with either it or lamb. You can also play around with the vegetables you add. The original recipe called for corn and peas, neither of which I’m that fond of. I imagine most anything would go well in here. In the middle of winter you could add root vegetables. I added broccoli. Zucchini, peppers, leafy greens, carrots, etc. are all options to play with. Another interesting twist in this recipe is curry powder. I’m not sure I would have thought to add it in a dish like this, but it works very well. It’s not overpoweringly curried, just a bit, and it adds a lot to dish. I also put grated cheese on top and broiled it at the end. Again, not traditional, but I like finding excuses to eat browned cheese.
sweet potato shepherd’s pie
adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 8
2 1/2 pounds garnet yams, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound broccoli heads, cut into florets, stems chopped
1 1/2 pounds bulk sweet Italian sausage (or full sausages, casings removed)
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1. Cook sweet potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 25 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste and stir until mixed.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, in a large pan, cook the pork and beef on medium high. Break up the meat, but don’t stir so much that it all crumbles. Try to keep chunks. Cook until meat is all cooked through, about 15 minutes or so, depending on how large your pan is. Add the meat to a 9 x 13 inch casserole. Save the fat in the pan to cook the onion and garlic in, sauté them for about 7 minutes, until onions are soft. Add onions to casserole, too.
4. While potatoes and meat are cooking, steam broccoli in a covered saucepan with a 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Once steam starts to escape from the top, remove from heat, drain and set aside.
5. Add broccoli to meat and onions. Let cool for maybe 10 minutes (you want to avoid scrambling the egg). Mix in cream, egg, and spices. Spoon the sweet potatoes on top of this mixture and smooth with the back of the spoon. Bake casserole for about 25 minutes, or until potato is beginning to brown around the edges.
6. Sprinkle grated cheese on pie. Place under the broiler until cheese bubbles and has a nice brown color.