• Top Food Blogs Proud member of FoodBlogs
  • ”my
    Award Winning Recipe Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Shepherd’s Pie

When I was a kid, as we drove up through Brewster, we would get to a certain point and my father would point to the top of the hill and say, “I have a friend who lives up there. Blankety Blank lives up there.” (Names omitted to protect the innocent). It came to the point that as those words came out of his mouth, my sister and I sighed, rolled our eyes in that way only little girls can, and finished the statement. And this went on for years, decades even.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. One of the people nearest and dearest to me in this life has my father’s habit of repeating the same story when certain touchstones are passed or smelled or said. Such is the case with this little hole in the wall restaurant that I keep being told makes the BEST Shepherd’s Pie any place. HA! My answer to this ridiculous statement – and you would agree if you ever saw this place! – always is the same “I make the best Shepherd’s Pie any place.”

Truth be told, I had NEVER made Shepherd’s Pie. I have always wanted to, have been in search for a great recipe for ages, but just never quite gotten there. The last pass by this “restaurant” and that silly statement being uttered, yet again, was juts the push I needed to get moving on this challenge!

And then I watched Lucinda Scala Quinn make Shepherd’s Pie on Mad Hungry, I knew this was the had-to-make recipe. This wasn’t just any old Shepherd’s Pie, but Keith Richards’ Shepherd Pie. I printed it and forgot it.

Desperately looking for something to read, I picked a book from Tom’s unending ‘to be read’ pile. Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, caught my eye. If nothing else, it should be wildly entertaining. And while reading, I came across the fact that Shepherd’s Pie is Keith’s favorite thing to eat. And then the light bulb went off and I remembered that Lucinda Scala Quinn had adapted this recipe from his autobiography.

It was a sign from above – no, not God, Julia Child.

  • 8 T butter (1 stick), divided
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3 T milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped, divided in half
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire
  • 1/2 C chicken or beef stock
  • 2 t cornstarch dissolved in 4 t water
  • coarse salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • 1 C frozen peas, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and saute 1/2 of chopped onion, carrots and celery until softened. Add the meat and salt and cook on high, stirring occasionally until the moisture is evaporated and the meat is browning in fat, about 15 minutes.

When meat is browned, stir in Worcestershire and cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and cornstarch-water mixture and simmer for additional minute to thicken.

Peel and halve potatoes. Place in pot and cover with cold water to 2 inches above potatoes. Add generous amount of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot (or transfer to bowl). Mash the potatoes with 4 tablespoons butter, white pepper and a few tablespoons of milk until smooth. Add more milk if needed to make potatoes creamy.

In a 2-quart casserole dish, evenly distribute the cooked meat, top with peas and remaining chopped onion and dollop mashed potatoes on top.

Dot top of potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until warmed through and potatoes are golden on top, and pie is bubbling.

This was so good! The entire thing was gone. Take that little hole in the wall restaurant! I shake my fist in your general direction. No way YOUR Shepherd’s Pie is better than mine! And dear friend, come over any time and I’ll school ya on great Shepherd’s Pie! Thanks Keith and Lucinda!

Advertisements

Beef Braciola

I am truly enamored with Lucinda Scala Quinn. Have been from the first time I saw her on television. Her cooking style and mine are similar.  Her recipes and ingredients are accessible and easy and wonderful for family and friends, for all sorts of occasions. Many of the recipes from Mad Hungry come from one of Lucinda’s first books, Lucinda’s Rustic Italian Kitchen. Wonderful book with some truly wonderful recipes inside – including this one for Beef Braciola.

It never occurred to me to make braciola. To me it was always something people put in sauce, something the butcher made, and not something I cared for very much. There was something about this recipe and photo that drew me to it – making braciola the star of the dish! How ingenious!

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 10 slices top-round sirloin, very thinly sliced, pounded to 4-6 inches
  • 10 pieces string, 14 inches long
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine (optional) or water
  • 1 28-ounce can best-quality tomatoes, coarsely blended

NOTE: I had the butcher cut this for me. I had 6 slices. I didn’t adjust the amount of stuffing any. I would prefer to have a little left over than not having enough!

You will of course only see 5 throughout this recipe as the Pup helped herself to a slice as I turned my back for a SPLIT second to put down the camera!

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of the garlic in a small skillet over medium heat until it sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds. Stir in the breadcrumbs, remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Stir in the Parmesan, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper, the red pepper flakes, and thyme.

Lay the meat slices out side by side on a clean workspace. Sprinkle each slice with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Place a scant 1/4 cup filling over each meat slice, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

NOTE: I pounded the beef a bit to make it thinner and easier to roll. Also, I am so lousy at tying up meat (no comments from the peanut gallery) that I made it as simple as I could and just tied it in one spot. Really it was just to hold it together while searing it,. The Braciola Police were not going to give me a hard time for my ugly tying skills!

Drizzle on olive oil and roll each piece up from the widest to narrowest end. Tie each piece with the string.

Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Just before the oil smokes, add the meat bundles. (Do not crowd the pan or the meat won’t brown.) Working in batches if necessary, cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the braciola from the pan and keep warm in the oven.

Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the onion and the remaining teaspoon of garlic, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the wine or water, stirring to deglaze the pan, loosening all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Return the beef to the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour. Remove the bundles from the pan, one at a time, snip off the string, and return to the pan. The dish may be made a couple of days ahead to this point, and the taste will improve. Serve as desired.

NOTE: I made a little pasta for the side and topped it with the tomato sauce.  And that thieving pup I mentioned earlier? Seems too much of a good thing IS bad for you! That is how she spent the rest of the night! Not sure if she was hanging her head in shame or suffering from being stuffed and eating raw beef!

Oven Crisp Flautas

I don’t mind cooking on a Saturday night. I just don’t want to think about it and I really don’t want to put a lot of effort into cooking.  I mean, really, shouldn’t the chief cook and bottle washer get a day off?

Used to be, at least in my house, Saturday night was take-out night – usually Chinese or Mexican food. But since the ‘day’ and our new very careful eating regime, Chinese food is a BIG nono, and Mexican take-out is just too full of things a certain someone shouldn’t eat.

Lucinda to the rescue! On her show, Mad Hungry, Lucinda made the most enticing Oven Crisp Flautas. No frying! No BAD ingredients! Simple! And Mexican! This would be the solution for my Saturday night dilemma – easy for the cook and pleasing to those yearning for take-out.

  • 1 package corn tortillas, 12
  • 6 ounces Monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay tortillas out on two baking sheets. Spread cheese on each one. Place in oven to melt, 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes, black beans, salt, and lime juice together.

NOTE: I wanted these to be a little more substantial, so I poached 2 chicken breasts, shredded them, and added them to the tomatoes and bean mixture. I also added a bit of cumin and cayenne to give it an extra layer of goodness.

Distribute mixture over cheese-melted tortillas and roll up.

Place side by side on baking sheet. Brush oil over top of each roll. Bake for 8 minutes, until golden and crispy.

NOTE: And because I can’t help myself, I sprinkled more shredded cheese over the top.

To serve along with the flautas, I made arroz con frijoles negros – and it couldn’t have been simpler. I opened, drained and rinsed a can of black beans. I cooked brown rice in the microwave (yes, I hear the collective gasp, but it was truly a last minute idea!). In a saute pan I added a T of oil and a chopped small onion, cooked until translucent. I added in the beans and a can of diced tomatoes. Bubble for a few minutes. Add to the rice and voila!

Flat Roasted Chicken

I absolutely love Lucinda Scala Quinn. Her recipes are totally my style. Simple, quick, delicious. I was thrilled when she came out with her cookbook and companion series Mad Hungry, Feeding Men and Boys. Well, in my house I have one of each, sometimes 2 of one or two of the other,  but this cookbook sounded right up my alley. The first episode of Mad Hungry that I watched, besides falling more in love with Lucinda’s cooking style and her SPURDLE, I had to run out, buy a chicken and make this Flat Roasted Chicken. This recipe is fairly quick, super easy and completely yummy.
By the way, this led me to discover another cookbook by  Lucinda, Lucinda’s Rustic Italian Kitchen, which I can’t wait to get my hands on!
  • 1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove; discard or reserve for broth, if desired. Open the chicken’s legs and spread the bird down flat, skin side up. Press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten. Pat dry with paper towels; season generously with salt and pepper.

NOTE: I remember the first time I watched Nigella do this to a chicken. She said there was something oddly satisfying about flattening the bird. She was absolutely right!

Heat a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast-iron, over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add chicken, skin-side down, to skillet. Let brown without moving, about 3 minutes. Turn chicken, taking care not to break the skin; transfer skillet to oven.

NOTE: From looking at the photo in the book, and seeing slices of lemon, I added sliced lemon to the skillet in the oven about halfway through.

Roast chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 40 to 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

NOTE: Now, here is where I ran into my troubles. I took the skillet out of the oven, grabbed my tongs to lift the chicken out, and without thinking, grabbed the handle when the chicken was moving easily. I burned three of my fingers. Oh, yes, really stupid.

Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and remaining tablespoon butter to pan, swirling to combine; set aside.

If you decide to make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cut chicken into pieces and serve immediately drizzled with olive oil mixture and pan sauce.

NOTE: Now, because I burned my fingers and was now howling in pain and not really interested in making the side sauce. There were a lot of juices in the skillet already. I took the ingredients for the  side sauce added them to the skillet and simmer until it reduced. After I attempted to cut up the chicken, I poured the sauce over the chicken.

I can’t wait to try more recipes out of this book. But any young man I know first moving out on his own will get this wonderful book as a gift. It’s perfect for a guy learning to cook and feed himself.