You Must Whip It

Monday, February 8, 2010

Every once in awhile (meaning on the rarest of rarest occasions) I get it into my head that I need to cook dinner in order to be a good wife. And then after a lot of planning, prep and special ingredients I end up completely flustered, frazzled and, more often than not, burnt.

I got the "be a good wife" bug a couple of weeks ago after seeing this awesome recipe for shepherd's pie. It seemed simple enough, even for this girl. Plus, I've always wanted to make shepherd's pie and since it has "pie" in the name, it's kind of like baking...right?

So I started out with some organic lean ground lamb from Whole Foods. Organic meat is worth every single penny and then some. The recipe called for 2 pounds of meat, but our Whole Foods seemed to have a shortage of ground lamb that day so we ended up with around 1.5 pounds or a little more. Which was fine, I could just cut the ratio down on everything else.

So, I cooked up the lamb - in two batches - and drained the fat. Surprisingly fatty for being "lean." I was really proud of myself at this point. Meat that appeared to be fully cooked and I didn't splatter myself with grease during the process!

Next up I cooked the onion, carrots and some tomato paste. I was a smart cook and did all of my veggie prep before I had anything on the stove so that I could concentrate step by step. I was applauding myself for stellar organizational and planning skills as I cooked away.

I then added the meat, some water, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the pot and let it simmer. As the peas were to be added at the very end, I planned to leave them in the freezer until the last minute. Until, of course, I read that they should be thawed. Doh! But I caught my mistake early enough and got a pot on the stove to boil. Mini-crisis averted.

With everything simmering, I got started on making my potatoes (which I had been boiling while cooking the meat). So I added in my milk and butter and then re-read my recipe. Hmm. It said to simmer the meat mixture about 10 minutes until it has thickened up, but I had easily surpassed that timeframe and it still looked like soup. Remember above when I said that I had less lamb so I'd cut back a little on everything else? Well, that explains the soup.

I added a little extra flour and used a big spoon to drain off some of the liquid and it finally started to look more normal. After my peas (that I had rushed to make!) had sat in a pot for half of forever (because there were no clean strainers left), I was finally able to add them into the mix.

After all of that, isn't it pretty?

Unfortunately, not all mistakes came out with a beautiful, happy ending. Remember, by the time I had caught onto my error of quantities, I had already started the potatoes. And by started, I mean, I had already added 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons of friggin' butter. I had prepped less potatoes (good!) but still put in the full amount of milk and butter (bad!). Go figure.

Since the potatoes were almost pure liquid (but delightfully rich) and I was running around in a state of panic cursing myself, Steve calmly suggested we whip them in the trusty KitchenAid. Come on, sing along with me...

Now whip it
Into shape
Shape it up
Get straight
Go forward
Move ahead
Try to detect it
It’s not too late
To whip it
Whip it good

And, with that, the potatoes were somewhat saved. While they weren't thick enough to pipe on beautifully, they held their own and tasted divine.

Once I had regained my sanity (a bit), I got my containers ready. The recipe called for either 8 8-ounce ramekins or 2 9-inch pie plates. I had 4 ramekins that I wanted to use, so I pulled out a 1.5 quart casserole dish from Crate & Barrel that was the perfect size.

I filled everything up with the beautiful meat and veggie mixture...

And spooned the sort of okay potatoes on top and tried my best to make them look somewhat fancy. Hmph.

About 30 minutes later in a 425 degree oven, everything was brown up and ready to go.

I won't lie to you, the smell in our house was amazing.

We busted into the casserole dish that evening and simply devoured the contents. Then, after cooling we refrigerated the ramekins and reheated them in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes a couple of nights later for dinner. The pie was even better the second time around because the potatoes browned up even more.

And, thus, I will continue to stick with baking until I see another recipe that seems too simple for even me to mess up. Le sigh. I really would like to be good at this (or at least somewhat competent), but there's just something so intimidating about cooking, with all the pots, pans, hot oil and raw meat that goes into it. Baking is just so....zen.

Shepherd's Pie

2 pounds freshly ground lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt and ground pepper
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook lamb until no longer pink, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a colander set in a bowl; let fat drain off and discard.

Add 1/4 cup water to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add flour; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups water, and lamb. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Divide among eight 8-ounce ramekins or two 9-inch glass pie dishes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

In pan, bring milk and butter to a simmer; remove from heat. Return potatoes; mash. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread over pies; use a fork to make peaks. Bake on a baking sheet until tops are browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly; serve.


BruinChiq said...

Oh how I love Shepard's Pie! I'm definitely going to make some of these next week, when I have a little extra time w/o the work day interfering!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa said...

That looks delicious! The idea to whip it is pretty ingenious.

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