Friday, September 6, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

My library books are due tomorrow.  While that normally wouldn't make a difference to a recipe blog, if you have recipes from library books to modify, it makes a big difference.

While I have enjoyed the two recipes I made from Greenspan's Around My French Table, it's not one that is going on my "to buy" list.  Too fancy and time intensive.

This recipe started out in the fancy and time intensive way.  However, I strayed a great deal from the traditional French Hachis Parmentier (fancy pants French way of saying Shepherd's Pie).  I'm including a quick method and a slower method along with a couple of other changes I want to try next time I make this.

This serves 4 - 6.  If you want to make this ahead of time, do all but the potatoes.  Cook and mash the potatoes immediately before it goes in the oven.

Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table

Slow Version Meat
1 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes
1 small onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced 1/4" thick
1 stalk celery, sliced 1/4"thick
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1/4 t whole black peppercorns
6 c water

1/2 lb ground beef
1 t tomato paste
1-2  c mushrooms, sliced

Fast Version Meat
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, cut in half and sliced 1/4" thick
1 stalk celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 2 c mushrooms, sliced
1 t tomato paste
1- 3 c beef broth (you will use this as needed, amt will vary)
salt to taste
2 T parsley, chopped

The Topping (for both versions)
2 lbs potatoes, quartered (or cut into medium chunks)
1/2 c milk
1/4 c heavy cream (optional, can also just use an extra 1/4 c milk)
3 T butter, at room temperature
1/2 c Swiss type cheese (swiss, emmenthal, gruyere, comte, etc), shredded (optional)

For the slow version:
Put the beef chuck, onion, carrots, celery, cloves, parsley, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns, and water into a large soup pot and bring to a boil.  Skim off the foam that comes to the surface.  Lower the heat and simmer for 3 1/2 hours.  Strain the solids from the broth (meat and vegetables), reserving broth.  You won't use much of the broth, you reserve the extra broth for the next time you make the fast version of this.  Transfer the meat to a cutting board and chop into small pieces.  The meat will fall apart.  Set aside both the meat and the vegetables.

Put a large skillet over medium heat.  Brown the ground beef.  Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their juices.  Stir in the tomato paste. Add the reserved vegetables and chopped beef.  Stir in a cup of the reserved broth and bring to boil.  You want the beef and vegetables to be moist, but not runny.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a 2 qt oven casserole dish.  Set aside.

For the fast version:
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef.  Add the onions, celery, and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their juices and the onions have softened.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Stir in the carrots.  Add the tomato paste and 1 c beef broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the carrots are tender, adding more broth if the mixture gets dry.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley.  Pour into a 2 qt casserole dish.  Set aside.

For the topping (both versions):

While the ground beef browns, put the potatoes in a medium pot and add just enough water cover potatoes.  Bring the covered pot to a boil and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain well.  As soon as you are able, peel the potatoes (potatoes should still be very, very hot).  Heat up milk/cream.  Mash potatoes (I use an electric mixer to do this, you can do it however you prefer).  Pour in milk/cream, add butter, and continue to mash.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Scoop the mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables, spreading them evenly throughout the pan. Sprinkle grated cheese over top if desired.  If you want, you can also dot the top with small pieces of butter (use a total of 1 T butter).

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and the potatoes are golden. (If you don't use butter or cheese, the potatoes won't be quite as golden).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Old School Baked Beans

The problem with blogging again is that I am finding a backlog of recipes to add and not enough time to add them!  I was going to add a butchered version of Dorie Greenspan's Shepherds Pie (except she uses the fancy french name, but I am not).  I also wanted to add the recipe for the Green Chile Pesto (also known in these parts as Cilantro Pecan Pesto).  I also made serious alterations to Greenspan's Espresso Cheesecake Brownies I wanted to document for posterity.

Alas, I am posting none of those wonderful recipes tonight because this one recipe blew everyone of those completely and totally away.

I'm talking about Baked Beans.  Baked beans the way they are supposed to taste, without being overly salty, without mystery ingredients, with only minimal use of a can opener.  These baked beans start with dried beans and end either with a long, slow stint in the oven or a day in the crockpot.

We all loved these beans.  My boy, J, who's six these days, told me these were the best beans he's ever had.  He had to qualify the statement though.  "Not because you made them, Mommy.  Because they're just like the beans we had at Vacation Bible School."  ??????  What?????  To which, M, who's eight, helped me out and said,  "We've never had beans at VBS."  "Oh yes,"  John replied.  "Not this year, but last year."  What??????  I am fairly confident our VBS snack goddess (can I say that?) didn't serve the kids baked beans, either homemade or out of can.  But whatever.  My beans were that good.

I modified 100 Days of Real Food's recipe for slow cooker baked beans, basically because I didn't start this recipe two days ago.  In the original recipe, the beans do their first soak overnight (like is typical with dried beans.  Personally, I've had little success with the quick soak/boil method and prefer the soak in a bowl overnight method).  Then, they simmer away in a crockpot for 10 - 12 hours.  Yep.  Didn't start the beans until last night and didn't have twelve hours (to be on the safe side) between when I rolled out of bed and supper.  So, here's the one day, heat up your whole house even though it's 100 degrees out but I don't care because I WANT BEANS!!! version.

A note on quantities.  I halved this recipe.  I never, ever should have done that.  We served the beans sparingly, worried that if we ate to our heart's content, we may not have leftovers.  I wanted leftovers.  Next time, I am not halving the recipe.  (Note to self:  DON'T HALVE THIS RECIPE!!!)

This serves 8 - 10 if you eat something besides baked beans for supper.

Old School Baked Beans
adapted from

2 1/2 c (approx 1 lb) dried navy beans (or Great Northern beans).
8 oz bacon, diced
2 - 4 red sweet peppers (or 1 red or green bell pepper will do as well), diced
1 onion, cut into 1/8th's
1 c water
1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 - 3/4 c maple syrup (I thought 3/4 c was a bit too sweet)
3 T yellow mustard
3 T apple cider vinegar
2 t chili powder
1 t salt, or to taste

Soak the beans overnight in a bowl, covered with two inches of water (about to your second knuckle--more than the beans in the bowl).  Be sure to remove any stones that may be in with the beans.

The next day, fry the diced bacon.  Drain on paper towels, reserving fat.  Drain the beans well.  Place the beans, bacon, pepper, and onion in the bottom of a large casserole dish.  Pour in water and tomato sauce.  In a measuring cup, combine maple syrup, mustard, vinegar and chili powder.  Pour over the beans and combine.  If desired, pour a T or so of the reserved bacon fat over the bean mixture as well (a little flavor boost!  Why waste good bacon fat?).

Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven for 2 hours.  Lower the heat and cook for an additional 2 1/2 - 4 hours, or until beans are soft.  Stir every 1/2 hr or so.  If beans look dry, add a little additional water.

Before serving, removed onion wedges if desired.  Enjoy!