Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shepherd's Pie (Page 508)


  • Date: Saturday, November 22, 2008 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

People often ask me, "Do you have any good recipes left in The Book at this point?" I always answer emphatically, "Yes!" In particular, the meat sections of The Book are still full of things that sound completely delicious which I haven't made yet. This was one such recipe. Mmmm... Shepherd's Pie. This is not a super-quick recipe, but it is a super-delicious one. I started by blanching and peeling some pearl onions (Cursed pearl onions -- not only are they a pain in my ass, but the recipe would have also tasted better with regular onions. My special gentleman declared that he would have given this recipe an A had it called for chopped onion, but the pearl onions dragged it down to an A-). Then I browned pieces of lamb shoulder with some garlic in a big cast iron pan. I deglazed the pan with white wine. Then I added tomato paste, beef stock, water, fresh thyme, the lamb, the pearl onions, chopped leeks, sliced carrots, chopped turnips, salt, and pepper, and brought it to a simmer. Note: I don't have a Dutch oven, so I tried to make this in a huge cast iron skillet. It was not big enough, and at this stage I had vegetables and lamb overflowing out of my skillet. I covered the skillet with foil and put it in a 350 degree oven to braise for about 2 hours. In the meantime, I cooked some potatoes, put them through a ricer and mixed them with cream, milk, butter, salt, and pepper, to form some awesome mashed potatoes. When the lamb was done, I made a buerre manie (flour smushed together with butter) to thicken the sauce the lamb had cooked in. Then I spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb and broiled until browned. The result: deliciousness! I can't say enough wonderful things about braising, and braised lamb is AWESOME. The sauce it was in was flavorful and delicious and the vegetables were very tasty (minus the pearl onions, which both my special gentleman and I weren't crazy about). The mashed potatoes on top were also fabulous, and when it got all mixed together after serving, the lamb sauce acted as a yummy gravy for the potatoes. This was wonderful cold weather comfort food. I have been eating it for days, and it only got better after a day or two in the fridge. Very, very tasty.

Here is the recipe.

I was an undergraduate at Stanford, where they are on quarters rather than semesters. Ten weeks isn't very long, so the quarter would always fly by before you knew what happened. The first day of class was rapidly followed by the first midterms, and before you knew it you were taking finals. It was a whirlwind. I went to graduate school at MIT, which is on semesters. It was a gentle introduction to semester life because MIT has more student holidays than any other school I have ever heard of. MIT students get off for anything that is even remotely a holiday. President's Day? A day off. Patriot's Day? A day off. Columbus Day? Two days off, etc, etc... Then, on top of all that there are many other random student holidays (unofficially referred to as "suicide prevention days" which are thrown into the mix). So as semesters go, the semesters at MIT are pretty easy to handle. You have at least one day a month where classes are canceled, and usually more. But now I teach at a big state school, where they seem to be very serious about how many class days should be in a semester. So our fall semester usually starts in August, and the day before Thanksgiving is our first day off of the term. That is a LONG stretch with no break. I teach two classes, which are both Monday-Wednesday-Friday, so this term I gave more than 70 lectures before we had a student holiday. Crazy! Basically what I am saying is this: I am excited to be on break! I taught yesterday, and now I have a break from teaching for the rest of the week! I do love to teach, but this is a rough time in the semester for the students too. They are tired, I am tired -- everyone needs and appreciates this break! And when we go back next week there are only a couple weeks left before finals. Yay for Thanksgiving break!


Kitchen Vixen said...

I went to a private school in Texas, and we had a "fall break" in the middle of October, which also came about as part of those "suicide preventation" days. Seeing as how we always hit the ground running in August and went till Thanksgiving, I was so grateful for that Fall Break.

Teena said...

Yeah I hear fall break is a marvelous thing. During one of my super-crazy weeks this term a lot of my friends were on fall break and I was deeply, deeply jealous!

Emilee said...

SUCK. I wish I had seen this review earlier. I'm making Shepherd's Pie tonight for B's birthday. The recipe I use is pretty similar, but doesn't have any white wine ... that sounds like an improvement. Hmmm, maybe I could squeeze in a(nother) trip to the grocery store. PS. I heart pearl onions.

Teena said...

Em -- How did your shepherd's pie come out? The addition of white wine was nice, but let's be honest: braised lamb is going to be delicious any which way you do it!

Happy Birthday to Brian!

Emilee said...

Eh -- it was just OK. Ardan 16 months, licked the bottom of his bowl, though! That was a nice compliment. :)

Teena said...

Only ok, huh? Yeah I made some braised lamb shoulder the other day which I expected to be amazing, but it was only so-so. Very disappointing!