Friday, March 4, 2011

Get in the Kitchen

This woman totally got in the kitchen.

I may turn out to be a good hausfrau yet! Maybe I'll get a raise next year, though I guess I should have inquired about the opportunities for advancement and the performance evaluation criteria before I accepted the position. I would hate to think this is a dead end gig. How would I move up the professional hausfrau ladder? Bigger haus? Frau enhancement? An additional husband? For the love, no one suggest babies.

Knock on wood! Knock on wood!

Well, at least my job is safe for now. This week produced not one, but TWO delicious meals that are bound straight for the permanent recipe book, and ZERO bad dishes. So, since "Allie in an Apron" is a work in progress, and it's my blog anyway, there will be no bad meals. Only bad bloggers.

Without further adieu...

Shepherd's Pie
Ok, so I know, I know, when it has beef instead of lamb it's actually called Cottage Pie, but I'd much rather eat a shepherd than a cottage.

Original Recipe!*

*Connotes a recipe where Allie just used whatever she had on hand and didn't measure anything and thus can not possibly provide exact measurements.
Mashed pa-tater component:
A bunch of red skin potatoes, skin on, CUBED (I used "the rest of the 5 lb bag." Gee, hope that helps.)
2-3 Tablespoons of butter or margerine
1 cup (ish?) of sour cream
Loads and Loads of garlic salt
Maybe some extra garlic powder, just for good measure
Sprinkle of Paprika

Beef filling component:
1 1/2 lbs LEAN ground beef (there is no draining in Shepherds Pie. Get it lean or get some Tums.)
A good bit of frozen peas and carrots (Perhaps a cup? A little less? Maybe it was two? Who knows.)
1/2 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
A lot of Worcestershire Sauce
1-2 Tablespoon flour or cornstarch (less if you use cornstarch, I would think)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees at some point. I didn't use convection.

The Procedure:
Cube up 'dem taters! Boil 'em real good like, ya hear? Get 'em real soft! (There is something about a potato that brings out the hick in me.)

While the taters are a-boilin', brown the meat with the chopped onion. Add the peas and carrots to the meat and onion after things start browning a little, as to not cook them into a funky mush.

Season with whatever you like- I used black pepper, a liberal amount of ground cayenne (we like things spicy), and some garlic powder that was later completely overshadowed by the Worcestershire sauce, so it was undeniably superfluous to the final product. I'm a spice waster.

Once the meat is finished cooking, start splashing in liberal amounts of Worcestershire sauce. Taste often! This is the MAIN FLAVOR of the whole dish, so you really want it to pop, but don't worry, with the mash pa-taters on top, the flavor becomes more mild. I didn't measure (surprise surprise), but probably used over a half cup. Just FYI- this is why I didn't season with salt. Get it all very Worcestershirey. 

Sprinkle in the flour or other thickening agent and mix everything up just for a bit of thickness. I don't know if this is completely necessary, but it sure didn't hurt.

Can't go too long without a picture! This has nothing to do with Shepherd's Pie.

***SIDENOTE*** At this point, I will say that I suspect, but can not confirm, that if you do not have Worcestershire sauce, or don't like it, but want some warm, hearty man-food, you can substitute some BBQ sauce and vinegar instead. I'm no expert though, and if anyone knows that the combination BBQ and vinegar would actually make your house explode or set your stomach a-blaze, let me know and I will put in a correction. I only thought of the substitution as we were eating the dish and it kind of had a flavor reminiscent of the tangyness of BBQ, without as much sweetness.  ***FIN***

Now the filling is done (huzzah!), so let that just hang out while we move on to the taters. They should be soft as a baby's butt. And, unlike a baby's butt, we are going to mash the crap out of them and then eat them. So....yeah, the texture should be the only likeness in this situation.

Now here's the thing- if you have your own special mashed potato recipe that you know by heart and can do in your sleep (you know, with the help of a few Ambien), then just use that. No need to reinvent the wheel. Just make sure the potatoes have a lot of flavor (hence the LOADS of garlic salt), because this is kind of a BIG FLAVOR meal. Maybe you want to add some cheese- fine with me! Perhaps a Ranch mashed potato is more your style- sounds delicious! I had never made "real" mashed potatoes before, so this is just what I had to work with.

Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water so the steam doesn't burn your eyeballs out when you start to mash. Throw in your butter and sour cream and a liberal helping of garlic salt and pepper, and whatever else you want. I almost used real garlic, but it's so hard to mince small enough, and I didn't want to have to stop halfway through and mince more if it wasn't garlicy enough. Now go to town! I don't have an electric mixer that works with the weird-o German outlets, nor do I have a potato masher, so me and Madame Necessity hooked up in real weird "girl-on-abstract concept" action, and didn't use protection, and had a beautiful baby Invention. 

He has brown eyes, just like his mama.

Then my baby Invention grew up, and didn't want to help his mama anymore, so to finish things up and get the right consistency of the mashed potatoes, I literally used my hands. Don't judge. I had a husband to feed. It was all squishy.

Alright, almost done!

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick stuff. Slop in your meat mixture. Spread the potatoes on top and ruffle up the peaks a bit so they will get nice and toasted in the oven. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the peaks start to brown- however long you like.

Inhale exuberantly while hunched over your food, growling at anyone who comes to close. Then have seconds.

It's the taste that counts. She's no beauty.


Mine didn't turn out as pretty, so here is the picture from For the Love of Cooking.

This was the second time I made this dish, and it was just as awesome as the first. I think it may even be Husband's new favorite. The lemon flavor is very strong but just goes so well with the crispy proscuitto and sage. I haven't figured out a good side dish for this yet, though. Any suggestions? Husband suggested I just make a double batch of the chicken and forget the side. A well balanced meal...for a caveman.

Ham and Potato Soup...Excetera

I wish I was better at the whole homemade soup thing. I lourve soup. Could eat it everyday. But unless it starts with Campbells, I just can't get the right consistency for a creamier soup. Maybe because I don't use cream. Something to ponder.
Anyway, this soup was good for a couple meals, but didn't leave me writhing on the floor or taking my spoon with me to bed at night or mumbling "creamy potato" in my sleep or anything.

The Ingredients
2 Cans Cream of Mushroom
Aprox. 10 red skin potatoes, cubed
2-3 cups of chicken stock or broth- enough to keep the liquid-to-food ratio in check
Package of large chunks of cubed ham (not the itty bitty guys for omelets)
2 small cans of mushrooms, drained
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced, or however you like it
Seasoning to taste:
Celery seed (loved this)
Salt, pepper
Chile powder
Ground red pepper
To Top:
Healthy dollop of sour cream
Generous handful of sharp cheddar
Sprinkle of parsley

Ok, surely you know what to do. Combine all the ingredients (except the toppings) in a big pot. Put on hot stove. Simmer until potatoes are done, 1 hour (ish). Taste often and adjust seasoning/liquid level. Put in bowl. Top. Eat.

Whew, that was fun. Now whose making dinner tonight? Oh wait...

As a sidenote, Husband and I are going to Cologne, Germany this weekend and Monday to experience our first Fasching (aka Carnival)! If you don't hear from me by Tuesday night (we won't have internet at the hotel), light a candle in my memory. My head will have exploded from all the fun.


Ashley said...

FINALLY! I recognize almost all the ingredients you list in your fancy meals so I can try to be a good wife and make a real-person meal! I will note that for the second time in less than three weeks we somehow ruined Tuna Helper to the point of throwing the entire thing away and going out to eat. Now, who wants ham soup?

Allie said...

Mmmm...tuna helper. I want tuna helper.

Ange said...

For all the cooking I do, I've never tried Shepard's Pie. Hmmm. I may have to put that on my list before spring comes. Oh, who am I kidding, we live in Canada, I have at least until June to give it a shot :)

Ange said...

Also? Have fun in Koln! I expect pictures and stories :)

Sara Montague Miller said...