Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sláinte! It's Irish for "dinner!"

Okay, that blog post title is a bald-faced lie
Sláinte is actually Gaelic for "Cheers" and not Irish for "dinner." 
And a favorite dinner around for our family is Shepherd's Pie. 

I grew up eating what my beloved mom called "Shepherd's Pie." 
It consisted of ground beef topped with canned corn topped 
with instant mashed potatoes (TOTAL ASIDE: She made 
instant potatoes once for us for dinner when she ran out 
of potatoes for the roast. My Littlest Man, being so very 
polite after dinner, said, "I liked everything [about the 
instant potatoes] but the taste." My feelings exactly!).

Her version of "Shepherd's Pie" was as much a part of my 
upbringing as going to church on Sunday and singing the 
"Be Near Me Lord Jesus" song at bedtime. It was, however,
the farthest possible thing from authentic Shepherd's Pie. 
I still do love her version for comfort food, but I somehow
can't make it right, which is odd as it has no "recipe."

When Little Man was a baby, I wanted to try a more 
authentic version of Shepherd's Pie. I stumbled on a recipe
here and have altered it to our tastes.I almost want to call
it "authentic" Irish (or English) Shepherd's Pie, but that 
wouldn't be quite true. I don't use Lamb and I do alter the 
recipe a bit. But I think the whole notion of Shepherd's Pie 
was to use what was on hand. (Shepherds? Lamb?! Really? 
That's a bit like a dentist eating "Tooth Soup," isn't it?) and
what was simple. So I take that to heart. I make this version 
using a mix of ground sirloin and pork sausage because we 
always have it. I usually skip the mushrooms to please my
husband, sometimes use corn in lieu of the peas, and I don't
really use a "recipe" for the Mashed Potatoes on top--though 
leftover mashed potatoes work great, too. I almost always
serve it with Irish Soda Bread and a simple salad.

It's a favorite for this little O'Family. I hope you try it and 
like it, too!

Shepherd's Pie
Generously serves 4-6
Adapted from Epicurious
2 TB Olive Oil
1 large onion, diced finely
1 lb each, pork sausage and ground beef. Can use lamb, too.
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 -0.87 ounce packages brown gravy (such as McCormick's)
1 1/2 cups water
1-2 cups frozen peas or corn
4 TB chopped fresh parsley. Dried will do in a pinch. Divided.
Mashed Potatoes (can use leftovers, made to your liking)
Additional butter

Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a large saute pan over 
medium high and add onions, saute until golden brown. Add 
meat and garlic.
Cook over medium high until no longer pink. Drain fat from 
saute pan.Sprinkle gravy seasoning over the top and add 
water. Mix together well and reduce heat.Simmer and stir 
occasionally until mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. 
Add frozen corn or peas. Simmer until just cooked tender, 
about 3-5 minutes more. Mix in 3 TB parsley.Season to taste 
with freshly ground pepper.

Transfer meat mixture to a 13x9 baking dish. Spread Mashed
Potatoes over the top and make sure to cover the meat 
completely. I usually add a few pats of butter on the top. Not, 
like Paula Deen-size pats---just little tiny blobs, really. Bake
for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and heated through. Sprinkle 
with remaining 1 TB of parsley.

Serve with Irish Soda Bread and a simple salad. 
*image courtesy of Creative Commons on Flickr

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