"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: shepherd’s pie

‘meat pies’ . . .

meat pies 1

On our trip to New York City to see “the King and I,” my daughter C. mentioned the meat pies that she and her husband were given to eat on their way back from Europe this past summer. This got me thinking about those traditional Cornish pasties and other meat pies that the British are so famous for and I began to think about various experiments that I could carry out for something easy to make and also would taste delicious (plus store in the freezer!)

So, rather than buy beef stew or other cuts of meat that would require long cooking in order to be tender, I chose to use 80% ground beef (otherwise known as hamburger.) The 80% lean to fat ratio has a lot of flavor and I can also buy it in smaller packaging rather than those humongous blocks of ground beef that they sell at the grocery store. I also thought large chunks of fresh mushrooms and plenty of vidalia onion would be sufficient, simple ingredients to combine with the beef.

Instead of making my own crust, I decided to try this first batch out using ready-made in the box Pillsbury pie crusts from the dairy aisle bin. I opened them up and used a soup bowl as a template for size and then rolled them out just a little before adding the cooled filling.

All the meat filling took was some care first browning the chopped vidalia onion, then adding the big chunks of mushrooms and resting that mixture in a bowl while I browned the ground beef in the electric skillet. Once the beef was almost done, I sprinkled on Lawry’s garlic salt and some coarse pepper. Added the mushrooms and onions back in and stirred it together. Once it was cooled, I tasted it and it seemed to lack enough salt. So in went some pinches of Maldon salt which I stirred in while still warm.meat pies 2

Since it would have wreaked havoc to try to fill the pie pastry with the meat mixture until the latter was completely cooled, I swept the floor and cleaned off the crumbs from the placemats on the table. When it was time to put everything together, I rolled out the pie crust rounds a little to give more room for the filling and put in enough of it so that the pastry would hold it, the edges rolled up all around the pie and then the roll crimped by hand in order to provide a double seal for the juices.

Small cuts with a sharp paring knife allowed for steam to escape from the pies and a light wash of egg plus water was brushed over the entire little meat pie. Then into a 375 degree oven. I baked the first batch about 20 minutes and then left it in about 8 minutes longer just to be sure the crust was browned enough but not burned on the bottom. They looked pretty good!DSCN8742

While the first batch was baking, I formed four more pies and covered them with a clean dishtowel. There was a small bit of meat filling left so I divided the leftovers into two individual serving-size ramekins for our supper tonight. To plump up the ramekins, I found a russet potato in the pantry, rinsed it off and put it into the oven to bake along with the meat pies. Later on, I’ll scoop out the baked potato when it’s cooked and mash it with some light cream and butter to put on top of the ramekins for a mini-shepherd’s pie for our dinner tonight.

The second batch of four meat pies came out looking pretty nice too – and the only reservation that I have about any of this is 1) of course how do they taste? and 2) whether there will be any left to freeze for return airplane trips after Thanksgiving.

We have been having glorious weather – temperate, sunny, gorgeous sunrise and sunsets. There’s something in this New England Fall air recently that is so delightful in these mid-November days. I wonder what it is?





shepherd’s pie . . .

shepherd's pie

Instead of making hamburgers tonight, I decided to make a shepherd’s pie. There are some shortcuts along the way and I thought maybe I’d write them down in this post. First of all, I’ve been learning from watching a lot of cooking shows to keep flavors separate until you want to blend them. So, instead of frying the ground beef with onions, I cut up a whole onion and browned it in some oil and butter after two garlic cloves had been toasted and removed. Then, I cut up three huge button mushrooms into chunks and added them to the browning onions. I scooped them into a separate bowl while I browned the beef in the skillet, breaking it up so that it browned evenly. (Dropped the spatula on the floor, flinging onions around twice!) Then, added the chunky onions and mushrooms, gently folding them into the beef. Sprinkled with Maldon salt and cracked pepper. Finally, I made some mashed potatoes, enriched with milk and butter, smoothed over the top of the meat, onion and mushroom mixture, dotted with butter and sprinkled lightly with parmesan cheese.

Washed and dried my favorite fluted baking dish that I bought years ago in Gloucester. It’s just the right size to hold a casserole dish for two. Plus, it’s so elegant on the serving board when we have dinner. There’s a huge bag of fresh spinach that C. brought from the organic farm last weekend that I’ve been meaning to cook before this. I thought I’d heat up a few garlic cloves and cook a mound of it in the skillet, letting it disappear to almost nothing as fresh spinach is wont to do. Then, drain the liquid out of it, cut it up in the skillet with a sharp knife and add some light cream, a little salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to dress it up a little.creamed spinach

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been dropping things and finding the logistics of cooking from a wheelchair more challenging these days. Maybe it’s because it is getting near the tail end of the dozen weeks that I’ve had my cast on and I’m impatient to have it off next week. My short fuse might also be due to the many dishes that I’ve been cooking of late–a cumulative culinary journey that has occupied me during these long days sitting on the couch for most days since February when I broke my ankle.

The weather is turning warmer, the light so much brighter and it will be nice to be able to navigate the stairs so that I can go outside more often. G. has been doing heavy lifting for grocery shopping, getting things out of the pantry, raising and lowering the shades, doing the laundry and helping me all day long, with good humor and so much patience. We will enjoy our supper tonight together and, as usual, give thanks for the simple things in life.

shepherd's pie from the oven