Thursday, November 20, 2008

Experiment: Cheesy Vegetable Shepherds Pie... Casserole... Thing.

3-4 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup corn
1 cup peas
1 cup carrots
1/2 cup chopped pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1 tbls butter
1 tbls flour
1/4 cup (or more) block cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4" thick matchsticks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp tarragon
1/4-1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4-1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4-1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Note: All measurements here are approximate. I didn't actually measure anything.

Preheat the oven to 400. Brown the onions in a saute pan with the butter, over medium-high heat, being careful not to burn them. Add the garlic and saute till aromatic. Add the vegetables and seasonings. Saute till heated through. Add the flour, combine it thoroughly and let the mixture cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth and milk. Let cook till thick, about 3-4 minutes. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and cover it evenly with the mashed potatoes. Run a fork gently over the mashed potatoes to make ridges. Stud the potatoes with the cheese sticks. Put in the oven and bake till golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Ok, I've been trying to eat more vegetables. But for the most part, frozen veggies are what we have on hand. And I don't really like them, too squishy. So I need recipes that we like that use them so we don't die of malnutrition. So that means, pretty much, casseroles. Now I like casseroles, don't get me wrong. But most of them are A) wicked fatty (not bad in and of itself, but, you know... fat.) B) full of cheese, which my girlfriend doesn't really like and C)... well, there isn't really a C. Ok, there was a point to this whole rambling intro, but I don't really remember what it was. Basically I wanted to make a vegetable shepherds pie. I figured it could be a side dish or a main dish and it would be good. And it was. One kind of weird thing did happen though. Most of the gravy wound up being absorbed by or mixing with the potatoes, or something like that. So what it was was a layer of browned potato, a layer of super creamy, smooth, rich potato then a layer of seasoned veggies. Not that that was bad, mind you. It was wicked good. Just unexpected.

I made the gravy a milk gravy to give it a little extra richness, but you could use all broth if you want. You could also easily add some ground beef to make it a standard shepherds pie, or add some mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini or beans if you wanted to keep it vegetarian but make it heartier (heartier than a casserole dish full of mashed potatoes that is). It would have been good with chicken in it too. And bacon.

So first brown the onions. I browned them up pretty dark for this, I wanted some good caramelized flavor and nice fond since I was making gravy. When they are done, add the garlic and stir it around for 30 seconds or so, till it stops smelling quite so sharp. Don't get a picture of it though, since I forgot to. Heh. Now toss in the veggies. I did it with them still frozen and it worked out fine. Stir them around to defrost, then add the spices. Now sprinkle on the flour. I saw the guy from Cooking for Engineers do this and it seemed like it would be much easier than making a roux and dealing with that. Mix in the flour and let it cook for a bit to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then deglaze with the broth. Scrape the bottom a bit, then add the milk. You could use cream here instead of milk if you are feeling naughty. Now let it simmer, stirring occasionally till it's thickened a bit. It should only take a minute or two. Pour that into a casserole dish. Now top it with mashed potatoes. Mmmm, mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes. Spread them evenly over the top, then run a fork over it to make these cool ridges. Not only does it make it look fancy (well, it does if you do a better job than I did) but it also makes it brown better. And that's key to these kinds of things living up to their potential. Browning that is. Now here is a cool thing I started doing a while ago when I was making something else topped with mashed potato. Instead of sprinkling on shredded cheese, I cut big slivers of it off a block and poked into the top. Leave about half of it sticking out. Now when it cooks it gets little pools of browned, melted goodness on top and veins of cheese running through the potatoes. It's some wicked good stuff there. I only did half with cheese so my girlfriend could eat it too, but if everyone you are cooking for likes cheese then just go nuts with it. Now toss it into you 400 degree oven for a half an hour or so. Take it out when it is bubbly, golden and spectacular. See what the cheese does? Pretty cool, huh? Tastes good too. Now dish it up and eat it.


Michele said...

Looks like you have a lot left over...wish I could help you out with those leftovers!!!

By the way, I did the tagging thing!!!

Bob said...

Yay Michele! You're the first to play along. Have an invisible, intangible gold star. :)

Heh, we didn't have as many leftovers as it looks like, after going back for seconds. But if Shane would finish off that food fax, I would send you some.

Reeni said...

Your Shepherds casserole looks so tasty, I love the cheese, yum! I also love your kitties, their so cute.

Bob said...

Thanks Reeni! It was tasty, the cheese really added some good depth. I'll tell the kitties you think they're cute... not that they ever listen to me. :)

Emily said...

I like how you combed the potatoes.

Shepherd's Pie sounds delicious! I've never had it before.

CookiePie said...

That looks so hearty and yummy - perfect for a chilly fall dinner!

sj said...

yumyumyum! That looks really good! Can I come over? :D

Bob said...

Emily: You've never had shepherds pie?! You poor thing! It's wicked easy to make and so good. The original British one has lamb, the American version has ground beef (the British call that a cottage pie). If you take this recipe and add a pound of seasoned, browned hamburger (if you want to be anal you should take out the milk and replace it with more broth for a standard gravy) that would be shepherds pie, although with more veggies than average.

CookiePie: Thanks! It did hit the spot on a cold day. ;)

Jo: Sure! Heh, I think we might even have a little left... I did a bunch of cooking over the past few days and we have a small mountain of leftovers.


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