Friday, January 14, 2011

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

This recipe was sent to me by my favorite personal chef (whose food I've never eaten), Debbie Burgess of the Hungry Fox Personal Chef Service in Lancaster. Because it was posted on a closed personal chef forum, I feel I can't publish the recipe here.
The real kicker to this vegetarian (well, not quite, because it has Worcestershire sauce in it) dish is the entire bottle of red zinfandel it has in the sauce. It has a way of adding zip to the vegetable broth which, in my opinion, usually needs something added to it to make it rich.
The recipe took me 2 entire episodes of "Little House on the Prairie" to watch, so it is a little mini-marathon of cooking. But well worth it!
The vegetables are typical winter fare: carrots, parsnips, leeks (and onions), cremini mushrooms and frozen peas.  A can of cannellini or navy beans also adds substance. The potato topping is enhanced with an aromatic butter mixture of garlic, basil and parsley.
Now I need to say here that I have never in my life made shepherd's pie before. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've only actually EATEN it maybe once or twice. So my problems with the mechanics of the recipe probably stem from my inexperience making (or eating) it.
For the topping, the recipe called for boiling "4 large potatoes." Well, that's fairly subjective. And I kind of think I ended up with a bit more potato than was perfect because the amount of liquid it called for adding to it really made a nice batch of mashed potatoes, but was a little thick for spreading on top of the filling. Maybe if I'd thinned it a bit I could have been able to spread it easier. But I think if I were to change the topping recipe, I'd give a measurable amount of cooked and mashed potatoes.
For the filling, I really ended up with too much liquid and it wasn't thick enough. It called for a 750-ml bottle of red zin or burgundy, which you cooked down to a cup. But then you added 3 cups of vegetable broth and the beurre manie, which was 3 Tablespoons flour/3 Tablespoons butter, really had a lot of liquid to thicken. I made another batch of 1T/1T and it helped, but I ended up using a slotted spoon to take the vegetables out of the pot and put them in the casserole, and then pouring liquid in until I felt I had the right amount. I ended up with a little over 1/2 cup of the liquid left. I think if I were change this part, maybe I'll add only 2 cups of broth and then pour more in if needed.
All in all, this is definitely a recipe I'll make again. The vegetables were wonderful, the sauce silky smooth. The garlic and basil in the potatoes really were wonderful additions. The guys loved it and so did I. If I find out at some point that the chef publishes the recipe, I'll be sure to come back to this post to point you to it.

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