Friday, March 8, 2013

Irish Cottage Pie

We are due for another snowstorm tomorrow and we hope it's a good one! Here in Colorado we count on March and April to bring us the lion's share of our moisture for the year. Besides, spring snowstorms aren't like those in the winter. Flakes are giant and wet and generally don't stick around long. They make the air smell wonderful and green up our yards, making me dream of that lovely little Emerald Isle.

Here is a wonderful, warming casserole, perfect for this time of year. It is similar to a Shepard's pie but uses ground beef rather than ground lamb. Traditional Irish pies don't include cheese as an ingredient. However, if you wish, you can shred a handful of cheddar and stir in or sprinkle it over the top of the potatoes before baking. I understand that these pies are served with spring green peas traditionally.


Irish Cottage Pie

Serves 6 to 8

for the potato topping (and the creamiest potatoes ever!):
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper
fresh, minced parsley for garnish, if desired

for the filling:
2 pounds, ground beef
1 tablespoon oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and place potatoes back in pan. Turn the burner underneath potatoes on to low and stir constantly for a few minutes to slightly dry the potatoes. They will begin to smell like baked potatoes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, heat milk, 2 tablespoons butter and thyme together, just until butter is melted. Mash potatoes or, for the creamiest potatoes use a potato ricer. Whisk in the milk mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Brown beef, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper, and remove from pan and set aside on a few layers of paper towel to drain.

Drain fat from pan and wipe clean with a paper towel. Heat oil in pan and add onion, carrot and celery. Saute until onions are tender. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together broth, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings and flour. Stir into vegetables and return hamburger to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until sauce thickens.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with mashed potatoes. Score the potatoes with a fork or make peaks on the potatoes with a spoon; dot with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and mashed potatoes begin to brown on the peaks. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.


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