Shepherd’s Pie

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When people find out that I love to cook, try my food, or find out that I have a food blog I get several pretty regular, frequent reactions:

“Oh, you’re a REALLY good cook: have you ever thought about going to culinary school?”

“Wow, you should open up a restaurant and/or catering company!”

“You should totally go on ‘Chopped’ ‘Next Food Network Star’ or ‘Master Chef’!” (Popular food tv shows)

I always politely laugh off these remarks and questions in the real world. However, since this happens to be my blog and here I’m not obligated to laugh or even be all that polite about it, I can just give the straight up honest answers that go off in my head when this happens. Because I know you guys can take it.

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Do I ever think about going to culinary school?

Never.  Not once. It’s a notion that has not, nor ever will be a possibility in my life. For one, culinary school tuition is not cheap. I already signed my life away in five years worth of student loans for my B.A. degree- I’m still trying to get it back now in the small loan re-payments I make now every month. Signing off on more loans to go to culinary school? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Second, culinary school is not something I would ever want to pursue because for me, shaping the act of cooking around the very regimen and structure of school would completely take all the fun out of it for me. When I cook for myself and my family, I like having the freedom to not only add or take away from a recipe as I see fit, but also to mess it up. In culinary school you learn so-called rules of making this and that, having to add this many ingredients, and these exact seasoning with very little wiggle room for freedom and personal interpretation of a dish. And if you do make a mistake and blow a dish, you could fail a mid-term or a final. Where’s the fun in that?

I’ll pass, thank you.

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Would I ever open a restaurant?

Heh. Honey, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. Long, endless hours of thank-less work. An almost guaranteed loss in profit in the first 1-2 years. Disgruntled, rude customers. The stress of continuity in putting out good food. Just a few reasons for me to steer clear of the restaurant business like it’s the Plague. I would want to have a life outside of my restaurant- most restaurant owners don’t. I want to be able to see my family on a regular basis- most restaurant owners don’t. I don’t do so well with failure- statistically speaking, most restaurants go belly up. There are virtually no pros to balance out those cons, at least not for me. A restauranteur, I am most definitely not.

Do I want to go on tv shows like ‘Chopped’ or ‘Master Chef’?

H-E-double hockey sticks, NO! No. No. No. And, uh no. I don’t do very well cooking under pressure,much less the added pressure of cooking on national television. Although it would certainly be nice if I did get to win one of those contests,the emotional repercussions if I didn’t wouldn’t be pretty. I’m a really sore loser, folks. Plus, if I had to cook for celebrity chefs (several of whom I really like and revere) and they didn’t end up liking my food, I would seriously give up cooking for the rest of my life, no joke. Why put myself through all that?

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Okay, moving on.

It’s fall, and that means you have to have a shepherd’s pie. Seriously: you HAVE to. I keep mine pretty simple; it’s a real meat and potatoes kind of dish-literally. If you’re not in the mood to make mashed potatoes from scratch, then please feel free to use the potato flakes you can microwave- I’ve done that in the past and the dish still comes out perfectly fine. We also don’t add cheese to ours, but I know that most people do, so I added it in the recipe. My only regret is that I didn’t make some brown gravy for these pictures, because that’s how I serve it to my family. This is pure comfort food, folks. No frills, no fancy stuff. But it sure is good for what ails you on chilly winter nights.

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 Shepherd’s Pie

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 12 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 12 oz. frozen, mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 15.25 oz. can of tomato sauce (like for Hunts Meatloaf sauce)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder, divided
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. basil leaves
  • 1/2tsp. Ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. pepper, divided
  • Cheese (optional)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Set a large pot of boiling water over the stove. Cook potatoes, fully submerged in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fork tender and drain.

3. Mash potatoes using a potato masher (or a mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Don’t worry about making them completely smooth– lumps aren’t a bad thing here. Add the heavy cream, butter, 1 tbsp. garlic and onion powder, and 1/2 tsp garlic  salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

4.Brown beef over stovetop, then add mixed vegetables beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, remaining garlic and onion powder, sugar, basil leaves, Ground thyme and garlic salt and pepper. Bring to a medium high heat and allow to cook for a further 10 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed (it’s okay if there’s a little bit left). Taste and adjust for seasoning if needed.

5. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (or any casserole dish) with cooking spray. Spoon meat filling into bottom of dish, then spread mashed potatoes over the top. Make sure potatoes completely cover the meat to prevent any juices from bubbling up and spilling over.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to barely brown across the top. Remove dish from oven and turn on broiler.

8. Spray the potato layer with Butter-flavored cooking spray, or dollop with unsalted butter. You may also add cheese here if you like. Place dish back into oven, directly beneath the broiler and allow to cook a further 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are golden and browned.

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

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Picture this:

I’m sitting at my desk at work daydreaming about cooking, the blog and food (which, is pretty par for the course), and it suddenly dawns on me that the summer is winding down, and I haven’t made a single peach dessert. That’s like a crime, right? Pretty sure it’s probably illegal in some states. I immediately resolved to fix this error and bake something with peaches in it before summer was over and I missed my chance.

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As I always do when I resolve to bake or cook something, I polled the family to see what it was they would be interested in eating with peaches in it. I was feeling gung ho about a peach pie, but the general consensus leaned more in the direction of a peach cobbler. Now in all honesty,  I’ve got nothing against cobblers. They’re fine, they taste good, but I’ve always half-thought that cobblers are really just pies that never quite got their act together and grew up. In a family of fruit dessert overachievers, the cobbler is the wayward rebel kid that’s really charming and suave, but didn’t go to college or get a job and can’t stay in a stable relationship.

Peach Cobbler1

Jas and I got into a mini debate about this. She’s somehow under the impression that cobbler’s superior to pie because in pie there’s such a thing as “too much crust” that “overpowers” the fruit filling. She only needs the top crust that a cobbler provides.

Let me repeat: she thinks there’s such a thing as too.much.crust.

Yeah, I know. I’m definitely the smarter twin.

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But, you know, whatever. I can’t just cook for myself and to be honest peach cobbler is a world of a lot easier to make than peach pie. So I decided to go with the cobbler and save the pie for a day when I’m feeling selfish and have more time to make the crust from scratch. I had a recipe from Tyler Florence bookmarked in my Food Network recipe box for a very long time and that’s what I went with here. I did leave the bourbon out of the cobbler, so that it would be cool for my baby niece to eat, but I’m sure it adds a great compliment to the sweetness of the peaches. Rather than just throw it all in one of my glass baking dishes, I just baked it in the cast iron skillet I cooked the peaches in. It looks so much more homey and rustic, don’t you think?

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I also tried out a fool-proof method of peeling peaches that won’t result in you removing too much of the fruit while trying to get rid of the skin.  I’m sure some of you already know this, but for those that don’t, it’s really pretty simple: set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Fill another bowl with ice water. Drop the peaches into the boiling water, and leave them there for about 45-60 seconds. Fish them out and immediately drop them into the bowl of ice water. Let them sit for about 2-3 minutes then take out. The skins should literally come off just by rubbing your fingers over the peaches. Voila.

I’m taking this cobbler to the Fiesta Friday #33 party this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Andrea @Cooking with a Wallflower and Sylvia @Superfoodista. It’s the freakin’ weekend, so go out and have yourself some fun alright? 😉

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 Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Recipe Courtesy of Tyler Florence

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 to 8 cups
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl add the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches evenly; set aside.

3. Prepare the dumplings: Into a bowl sift together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and cut it in with a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

4. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add the peaches and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peaches. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes.

5. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.