Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hearty, but not Heavy -- Shepherd's Pie

fun fact: my apartment is so cold, the sauce oil in my instant noodle packet congealed.

fun fact II: my apartment is so cold, that even after two hours on the counter, the butter barely softened.

fun fact III: a space heater works more effectively when you put it in an open area, instead of cramming it into a tiny little space...(i.e., the room is warmer now that the space heater isn't trapped under my desk where my feet are)... :P

Wellll, it's been extra cold these past two days (DUDE, snow in the bay area!  last time this happened was... 3 or 4 years ago?  yeeah), and I was extra hungry today, so I reeeally wanted to try this Shepherd's Pie recipe I saved from Allrecipes~  Since I made a slightly altered and somewhat reduced version, I'll fully explain it here.

Essentially, this shepherd's pie was layers of stuff:
mashed potatoes au gratin (= cheese topping ;D), over
mashed carrots (plain), over
fully-cooked ground beef and onions

Because I am lazy (and because I've had a box sitting around since the beginning of the school year..), I used instant mashed potatoes...the dried flakes that come in a packet, that you add to milk, water, and butter.  IT IS DELICIOUS, no matter how weird it is... and it worked just fine for this recipe.  meh.

 Ingredients (for approx. 1 qt. casserole, a fairly small size, especially convenient for households of...one)
  • 1 packet from the box of seasoned mashed potatoes (enough for 2 people, it says..)
  • 1/2 a shallot, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped into large pieces (you might actually want another half or whole carrot)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped (I used a "sweet onion"..it looked yellow?)
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (I'm not sure how much I actually used...it was probably more)
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 c. beef broth
  • 2 tsp. Hoisin sauce
  • Several generous handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
  • oil for frying, milk/butter/water for potatoes (follow the instructions, yeeeah), a little bit of salt
Note: I was also going to add some canned corn, but the leftover corn from a can I opened...a while ago (maybe two weeks?)..was ALREADY MOLDY.  :(  ewww.  greenish blue spots and all, yo.  Instead, I added a layer of zucchini slices (1/2 a zucchini) to the individual casserole.


    Depending on how long it takes for your oven to heat, and how long you take to make the layers, remember at some point in the recipe to preheat your oven to 375°F.
    1. Boil some salted water, and when it's rolling right along, add the carrots, and wait for the water to boil again.  Boil until carrots are soft-ish (approx. 5-7 minutes).  Dump out the water and mash the carrots until lumps are whatever you will tolerate. Laver 2, ready!
    2. Make the mashed potatoes; while still warm, add a handful (according to the original recipe halved, "2 tbsp") of cheddar cheese.
    3. Saute the shallots in a liiittle bit of oil  until they are fragrant and starting to go clear.  Remove from heat and add into potato/cheese mixture.  Layer 1, ready!
    4. Heat some oil over medium, medium-high heat (depends on how patient you are, ahahaha...), and cook the onion until pieces are clear.  Add the ground beef and cook till well browned.  At this point you can either pour off the fat, or just leave it in the pan like a certain lazy recipe writer (hey, I bought the 90/10 instead of the 80/20 for a reason..gosh, what we're willing to pay for convenience..).
    5. Sprinkle flour over beef and stir in until you don't see anymore white powder.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the beef broth and Hoisin sauce (the original recipe called for ketchup, which I don't have--not even stolen packets from In-n-out or McDonald's or the dining commons, sad, I know).  Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Or slightly longer than that, depending on how long you forget about it. >_>;;;
    6. Remove beef from heat. Layer 3, ready!  Now it's time for casserole-assembly.  HOW EXCITING.
    7. Because homemade frozen food is infinitely cooler than commercial, store-bought, chock-full-of-preservatives frozen food, I followed the process described in this Just Bento article (it's really short, no worries) to make a bunch of muffin-tin sized pies that I can nuke(or toast)-and-eat through finals week (instead of wasting hours upon happy hours cooking).  I made eight muffin-sized (..in a muffin tin), and one individual dinner-sized one (typical Marie Callendar potpie-size?) in a 2-cup round pyrex container.

    8. Pour the beef and onions into the bottom layer, spread some mashed carrots over that, top with a scoop of mashed potato, cover generously with cheese, and pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  It is recommended that you check on it after 15 minutes, and every 3-5 minutes after that it remains in the oven.

    9. Remove it when done.  If you want to freeze anything, let it cool to room temperature first (or if your room is like mine, it's near equivalent to a refrigerator..oh wow, the temperature's below freezing outside..32°F), then pop the mini-pies into the freezer.  If you have room, you can shove the whole tin in, or if there isn't as much space, carefully remove the pies from the tin and freeze them on a plate or something.  After they're thoroughly frozen, put in a freezer bag (I haven't bothered with foil yet...we'll see how that turns out) and leave in the freezer bag until the next time you're hungry.  While you're waiting for the to-freeze-pies to cool, though, enjoy the rest of your pie fresh, warm and toasty. :)
    A tip I learned from Joy of Cooking about cooking stuff in muffin tins (not sure if it only has to apply to muffins, you know?):  if there are any empty cups, fill them with a few tablespoons of water before baking; this prevents stuff in the filled cups from getting too dry.  It also allows for more even heat distribution throughout the pan. :)  That's usually a good thing in baking, yeah?

    Fun Fact Finale: I have an unfortunate tendency to forget about the stuff I put in the oven, especially when I start using the laptop while waiting for it to cook. :P  Thanks to this, many cookies have come close, and some lost, to burnt disaster.

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