Jan just had two temporary crowns put in and is eating soft food. While she had smoothies and blended Fishyssoise the first days, she wanted something more substantial by the third day. The last time she had a crown put in, I made her Shepherd’s Minced Pie.
The last time I made this dish I used lamb , but Jan is not overly fond of lamb. I decided to use beef this time. However, it cannot then properly called a “shepherd’s” pie.
Note: While shepherd’s pie should properly be make with lamb, many people use beef and still call it “shepherd’s pie”—including Alton Brown. According to Wikipedia a pie like this made with beef is a “cottage pie.”
Normally, this pie is made with chunky pieces of meat and vegetables in the base stew, but because Jan is on soft foods I used ground beef. I cooked the beef in a patty and then minced it finely. I also minced all of the vegetables finely and cooked them into a paste. The final stew was more of an enriched gravy, rather than a stew.
The usual vegetable suspects for this dish are peas and carrots. Jan is constantly struggling to get me to use more vegetables and less meat in my dishes, so I added cabbage and leeks—I am not overly fond of peas. Onions and celery go without saying.
I am not always opposed to using canned ingredients, especially for a weekday meal—what I do not like are recipes that consist entirely of add-can-one-to-can-two. Dishes should be mostly fresh food, with maybe an ingredient or two that are overly labor or time intensive. For this dish, I used a high end gravy from Whole Foods.
Karl’s Minced Cottage Pie
½ lb beef, ground
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. dry sherry, separate uses
1 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 medium Russet potatoes
3 Tbs. butter, separate uses
1 medium onion, diced very finely
1 cup cabbage, minced
1 medium carrot, grated
1 stalks celery, diced very finely
1 small leek, quartered and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
1 can beef gravy
¼ cup half and half
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1. Put the beef in a mixing bowl and add the Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon of sherry, ½ teaspoon of salt and the baking soda.
2. Mix together well and let the beef rest for 20 minutes.
Tip: This gives the marinade time to work its way into the beef.
3. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks.
Tip: Put the potatoes in a pot of water and set them aside.
4. Form the meat into one large patty.
5. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large pan and, over medium high heat, brown the beef patty well.
6. Transfer the meat to a bowl and drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat in the pan.
Tip: Reserve this fat, in case you need to add some of it back as you are sautéing the vegetables.
7. When the meat has cooled, mince it finely.
8. Dice the onions very finely.
9. Add them to the pan with the remaining salt and sauté them for 3-4 minutes, until they are starting to pick up some color.
10. Put the pot with the potatoes on the stove and bring the pot to a simmer.
Tip: Start the potatoes at high heat and when the pot comes to a boil, reduce the temperature to low and cover the pot. Simmer the potatoes until a knife slides into the largest chunk easily.
Note: When the potatoes are done, drain the water, and set the pot aside, covered, until you are ready to mash them.
11. Add the cabbage, carrot, and celery, to the onions and continue sautéing for 4-5 minutes.
12. Add the leeks and continue cooking for another three minutes, until the vegetables are soft and most of the moisture has evaporated.
Tip: As the pan dries out you may need to add back some of the beef fat. You want the vegetable paste to be picking up some color, but it should not stick to the pan too much.
13. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the garlic to the hole in the center.
14. Sauté the garlic for one minute, until fragrant, and then mix it into the vegetables.
15. Stir in the thyme and black pepper and add salt, if necessary.
16. While the stew is simmering, drain and mash the potatoes.
Tip: Do not over work the potatoes or they will turn into glue. I use a potato ricer to get perfectly smooth potatoes.
Note: I must bring up one point about using a potato ricer. If your potatoes are not completely cooked it is sometimes had to get them to go through the ricer. This is a case where it is better to have your potatoes be a little bit overcooked than under cooked.
17. Put the egg into a measuring cup and beat it well.
18. Add the cream to the measuring cup and mix it into the egg.
19. Put the butter in a small cup and microwave it for 40 seconds.
Tip: Keep a close eye on it so that it does not boil over.
20. Gently whisk the cream mixture and butter into the mashed potatoes.
Tip: You are just trying to get it well blended, but again do not over work the potatoes.
21. Put the stew into a Pam-ed 12 x 9 inch deep baking pan, or a similar sized casserole.
22. Put the mashed potatoes into a quart plastic bag and snip one corner off of the bag.
23. Seal the open end of the bag and pipe the potatoes over the stew.
Tip: You could just spoon the potatoes over the stew, but using a plastic bag is much neater and makes a more even crust.
24. Spread the potatoes out evenly with a spatula and, using a large serving fork, drag the tines over the potatoes to make decorative groves.
25. Place casserole in the oven and broil until the potatoes are golden brown and crusty, about 15-20 minutes.
26. Let the stew cool for 10 minutes before serving.