Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

British food isn't exactly known for its flavor. Many English dishes are misunderstood. They're known to be packed with offal and lard; hearty, cheap dishes that could be made from little more than a few root vegetables and poor cuts of meat. OK--so the Brits do have a long line of sausages in their history. They make pudding from blood and boil kidneys in sheep's stomachs. But tonight, I made a dish that I (and, presumably others) have long misunderstood: shepherd's pie. A meat pie. A meat pie? Well, in America we do love a good pot pie...and what's in a name? Well, a great deal. Sure, we eat mud pie, knowing it doesn't actually contain any mud. But steak and kidney pie...we know ther are kidneys in there. And shepherd's pie...what's in there? Anything a shepherd could get his hands on, presumably. For a long time, I thought it was a variety of chopped innards. I was so wrong.

In fact, shepherd's pie is incredibly simple. Ground beef. Carrots, celery, onion. Tomato paste. Beef stock. Salt. Pepper. Mashed Potatoes on top. How simple could you get? And how perfect?

It's just beginning to get cold here. The sweaters are coming out of the closets and the pots are coming out of the cupboards. The salads of three weeks ago are being replaced by soups. Warm, lovely, comfort food is on the menu. Ian and I are spending our Sunday together, thankfully, after being apart for most of the week and spending our Saturday up in Spokane. We're in our apartment, in our living room, with bellies full of shepherd's pie and Costco beer (try it--it's actually good!). We're watching The Next Iron Chef on Food Network. This is one good autumn evening. We are fully comforted, thanks to one major comfort food. If you haven't made shepherd's pie before, you have to try it.

Of course, there's always room for improvement. The recipe we used contained no more complicated spicing than simple salt and pepper. A little thyme might be nice. Maybe rosemary. Sage. Anything warm and festive. What the Brits would say about this, I don't know, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try it.

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