Monday, January 14, 2013


I found this recipe on Cafe Johnsonia, one of my favorite food blogs ever, and it is the ultimate comfort food. It's rich and meaty and hearty and warm, and it tastes like the perfect cold-weather food. It's cooked with red wine, which gives it a rich flavor, and almost a yeastiness. We don't drink alcohol, but I wanted to pair it with a drink that was similarly yeasty to echo the flavors of the dish. I found some sparkling grape juice that tastes suspiciously like sweet sparkling wine, except nonalcoholic. It pairs really well.

Here's the original recipe. She says it serves up to 8, but Conrad and I can share the whole dish with a little bit of leftovers. Maybe it would serve four if you also served some veggies like green beans and some crusty bread.

Here's my version, with a few notes and changes. Any changes were made out of convenience.


For meat:
1 lb. to 1.5 lb. ground beef (Shepherd's pie is typically made with lamb [uh, hello... Shepherds??], but I use beef, because it's so cheap and easy to find. If you use lamb, follow the recipe the same way)
1 chopped onion
2-3 peeled and finely minced carrots
2 large cloves garlic, minced (I use garlic paste because I hate chopping garlic)
2 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp)
1 small sprig rosemary, leaves only, finely minced (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
salt and pepper to taste

For potatoes:
Frozen tater tots (enough to double layer them when it's time to bake)
Ok, I'm such a cheater. I know traditionally you should use freshly mashed potatoes, which I did the first time I made this. But being pregnant and particularly impatient, I improvised and topped the meat with a couple layers of frozen tater tots. It's totally delicious, and it makes it a touch more kid-friendly (though I think most kids would think it's great even with regular mashed potatoes. 

To top: 
1-1.5 cups sharp cheddar (if you grate it yourself, it melts better)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

If you're not lazy and you want to make mashed potatoes, begin boiling your water. You'll prepare them how you normally would. Add butter and milk, but be careful to not let your potatoes be too wet.

Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. I like using the Dutch oven because then I only have to clean one dish, rather than a casserole dish and a skillet. Add the ground meat, chopped onions, and chopped carrots (and chopped garlic, if you're using fresh cloves; if using paste, wait until you add the liquids). Brown the meat and allow the vegetables to saute. Once the meat is cooked through, add beef broth, red wine, tomato paste, thyme, and rosemary (and garlic paste, if you're using the paste).

Allow to cook down until the liquid is significantly reduced (it took about 30-45 minutes). It seems long, but if you don't wait long enough, you'll have a really runny pie. Season with salt and pepper.

Once reduced, top with frozen tots in two layers (or fresh mashed potatoes if you're an over-achiever). Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned, and tater tots are cooked through.


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