Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

My father is English. He came to the US when he was 18 and by now he's spent more than 3/4 of his life here. Nevertheless, while technically American, my father is first and foremost English.

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to travel to England a handful of times while my Dad revisited his roots. You could safely say that I grew up eating and was strongly influenced by English food. Now I'm not talking about the England that I just came back from in March. You know, the new, amazing culinary center of Europe, where they don't pasteurize their cheeses and everywhere we went the menu said local raised, free range, local produce... What I mean is that I grew up influenced by the typical, nasty English food that everyone thinks of when they think of typical, nasty English food. Things like cold steak and kidney pies, boiled cabbage, bangers and mash, thick fatty bacon and baked beans. All of which may not be locally sourced or trans-fat free but they still, lovingly have a place in my heart.

The old England that I visited as a girl, was nowhere to be found on my March trip. While we had remarkable culinary experiences, we spent most of them in amazing ethnic eateries and hipster, sustainable hot spots. Only every now and again, to my and The Husband's joy, did we 'pub it up.' Of course, one can't eat pub food for every meal, or you'll end up looking like a puffer fish and probably die of a heart attack before 50. But I don't care. As much as I love a nice curry, to me, there is nothing like a newspaper of fish and chips for lunch, a good cup of tea with four o'clock biscuits and a fluffy gorgeous shepherd's pie to make the cold and rain of an English winter just evaporate.

So with these strange, rainy, October days lurking above us here in Los Angeles, I've incarnated my ancestors and my childhood England and worked up a batch of my favorite comfort food. Enjoy it, I'm pretty sure, you'll see the clouds part and if you don't, go ahead and finish it off with a few pints and a nice long nap. It's the English way.

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

4 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 cup chicken stock/broth
1 t sea salt (more or less to taste)

2 T olive olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 lbs ground (not extra lean) turkey meat
1/2 t ground paprika
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t dried ground garlic
1 t dried oregano
1 t sea salt
1 c red wine
4-6 oz tomato paste
1 c water
1 zucchini
3 large carrots peeled and blanched
2 fresh corn cobs with kernels removed
2 cups blanched green beans
2 T grated Parmesan cheese

First peel and boil your potatoes. When tender, drain water and add butter, half & half, chicken stock and salt. Mash until fluffy and set aside.

Place olive oil in hot large pan (the largest one you've got). Add garlic and saute until soft.
Add ground turkey and cook thoroughly.
Once turkey is cooked add paprika, onion powder, garlic, oregano and salt. Give it a sec, then add the wine.
Cook off all the wine and when the turkey is nice and purple, add the tomato paste diluted into one cup of water.

Once the sauce is hot, add the vegetables.
Stir and let it simmer for a little bit. The vegetables will let go of some of their water but don't worry, it will thicken up later, trust me. if it is dry, you may need to add some extra water.
Once veggies are crispy but hot, transfer the meat and veg mixture to an 8X8 baking dish.
Then scoop mashed potatoes on top of it all. It will seem like there is no way it will all make it in, you'll be surprised how much will fit if you dome the potatoes a bit.
Sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan cheese and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees with a cookie sheet underneath. This sucker is really good at bubbling over.
When it's done the potatoes will be fluffy and buttery and the meat sauce, thickened by the starch of the potatoes will be rich and savory. The Husband often asks me if I made it with beef instead of turkey because of it's richness.
Slice into it while it's hot.
Serve it with the rest of the wine and a little salad.
Sweet, sweet comfort. The leftovers for lunch the next day could only get better if you can bring a beer to work. God save the Queen.

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