Tuesday, March 31, 2009

comfort for when you need it

The house currently smells like butter and wine. It’s fabulous.
It’s been a rough week. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, honestly.
A week that made me not give a shit about the sun beating down on me; this was the week for comfort food in all forms.
And so I comforted my boyfriend who (really and truly) needed it with a big slab of a delectable, delicious Shepard’s Pie.
A Shepard’s Pie so good, the name doesn’t even do it justice.
This is the kind of food you might as well just curl up on the couch with: fork in one hand, remote in other, big casserole dish resting on your lap.
Oh yes, it’s that good. And oh yes, it warms your soul.
Just as comfort food should.
Honestly though, I don’t care for the whole "comfort food" term. Because it rests so easily on the typical meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes blahblahblah.
(Granted, this is a meat-and-potatoes dish, but I digress...)
Comfort food to me is something that’s gonna fill you up, change your mood instantly, and make you feel good.
I find that in a pint of Haagen-Daz. I find that in my mom’s soup. I find that in my Shepard’s Pie.

Shepard’s Pie
I first heard about this dish in high school on a recipe handout about pot-pies and casseroles. This one has stuck with me, with additions made along the way. Oh, and ps: no peas in my Shepard’s Pie. Oh no, no.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 stick butter, cold and cubed
2-3 T ice water

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced
salt, pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
handful of chopped parsley

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
salt, pepper
½ cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon here)
8 oz can tomato sauce
½ cup chicken stock (I like the mellower flavor from chicken, but beef is fine, too)

1. For the dough: dump flour and salt into a bowl. Add in cold, cubed butter and cut in with a fork. Or honestly, your hands. Cut in until there are little bits of butter running all throughout.
2. Add in the water 1 tablespoon at a time until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic and chill. You can do this up to a couple of days in advance. (Makes it easier).
3. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
4. For the potatoes: add the potatoes to a pot of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water. Cook until fork-tender.
5. Meanwhile, for the meat: heat a pan on medium heat and add a bit of oil. Brown the beef. Once browned, add in the onion, garlic, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Turn on high and caramelize.
6. Deglaze the pan with the wine and stir until it reduces to a glaze. Lower the heat to medium and add the tomato sauce and stock. Cook for about 10 minutes.
7. When the potatoes are done, drain them and mash together with milk and butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley.
8. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to fit the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan. Dock with a fork and pop into the oven for 5 minutes.
9. Pull the pan out and add the beef on top of the dough. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Dot with butter and throw back into the oven for 20 minutes.

Oh, the sweet taste of comfort.

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