Monday, September 21, 2009

Shepherd's Pie (WCJO - DS)

I suppose any baked meat dish with a mashed potato topping can be called a shepherd's pie, or "cottage pie" as the case may be. Having spent a great deal more time on Personal Trainer: Cooking than I'd anticipated, I figured it was time to give this one from What's Cooking with Jamie Oliver a proper tryout.

Unlike a lot of other recipes for shepherd's pie that I've seen, this one relies more on stewed and shredded meat than ground or minced. I guess that goes to Jamie's preferences for "rustic" or crude-looking dishes.

Ingredients: And right away, I ran into some trouble. The WCJO recipe calls for small amounts of pork, beef brisket and duck legs. At the supermarket where I shopped, duck legs weren't available, and the beef and pork were packed in amounts more suitable for a Scout troop. On a weekend camping trip. Where more friends were invited. In other words, too much for a single person. (If ever people wonder why more single people don't cook for themselves . . . )

What this meant was, instead of pork, beef brisket and duck legs, I wound up using bone-in stewing lamb, veal cubes, and chicken drumsticks. The supermarket did have smoked turkey legs, which I considered, but then I had a look at the ingredients on the package, and changed my mind. The drumsticks might be from battery hens, but at least they were chemical free.

The other vegetables were simple enough: carrot, celery, potatoes and parsnips. It was the last one, used as a mash along with the potatoes, that I elected to try out.

Techniques: The recipe called for open stewing of the meats, along with the carrot, onion and celery, in a combination of red wine and beef broth, in a 350-degree oven for about three hours. Giving it some thought, I figured I'd try another method for stewing: a slow cooker. Which meant frying the ingredients first, then deglazing the skillet.

Eight hours later I transferred the meats to one of my Corningware pyroceramic baking dishes, taking care to remove as many of the bones as I could. The vegetables went as well, but not so much the remainder of the cooking liquid. The potatoes and parsnips were boiled and mashed with butter and S&P, spread on top of the dish and dotted over with rosemary sprigs, and then I put the lot into the oven.

One thing I have to add about WCJO: I really missed the interactivity that was available in PTC. The audio, especially, was sorely missed: all you have are paragraphs that flash up. And once you complete the dish, you don't really get much by way of congratulation. It's something JO should think about, next time he tries putting his name on a cooking game.

Results: Not bad at all. The lamb and the veal were nice and tender, the chicken picked up quite a bit of flavour and the potato/parsnip topping got a nice crispy surface.

Leftovers the next day were interesting. I'd saved the stewing broth in a jar; after a day in the fridge it had turned gelatinous, which I hadn't expected. Put the gelled broth in a microwaveable dish along with some of the leftover pie, and the nuked results were quite satisfactory as a quick dinner.

Well, if I had to make a potluck contribution, this dish is definitely an option for me. I'd call this a pass: better than PTC's chili dish, but not quite on the level of that mulligatawny soup.

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