October 21, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

I invited a group of dear friends over for a mom's night and being that we all love history, I thought I'd make a colonial meal.  I have a few reprints of old cookbooks-they're a lot of fun to look through!  Some of my favorites are The First American Cookbook (a facsimile of "American Cookery") 1796, by Amelia Simmons, and Hannah Glasse's,  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.  The latter was originally published in England in 1747 and I just love the subtitle......Excelling any Thing of the Kind ever yet Published!  Cute!  However, many of these early cookbooks are best read for enjoyment as ingredients and amounts are not exactly precise.  So I went to the internet to help plan my menu and came across this incredible dish!  This Shepherd's Pie from Chowning's Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia is quite different than the one I usually make but it's absolutely delicious!   I made it twice this week-the ladies loved it and I wanted my husband to try it so I made it for our friends for dinner.  It was enjoyed by all!  The only thing I changed on this is I used beef stew meat in place of the lamb.  You can prepare the stew up to a day in advance.  Just cover the dutch oven tightly with foil and refrigerate.  About 30 to 40 minutes before you want to serve this, heat the stew on low until warm, then pipe the hot mashed potatoes over top and broil.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1/2 pound turnips, peeled and diced
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef stock
1/3 cup tomato paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Potato Topping

2 pounds white or red boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 stick (or less) unsalted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or to taste)

To make the stew, melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium high heat.  Cast iron works great for this.  Add the beef and brown on all sides.  Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl.  Add the turnips, carrots, celery and onion to the Dutch oven; saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onions are translucent.  Return the beef to the pan along with the thyme, then quickly sprinkle the flour over the beef and vegetables.  Cook over low heat 3 minutes, stirring frequently to cook the flour.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Add the cold beef stock, raise heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.  Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the Dutch oven and cook mixture over low heat for 40 to 55 minutes, until beef is tender.  About 20 minutes before the stew has finished cooking, place the potatoes in cold, salted water.  Bring to a boil over high heat; boil until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain, mash with a potato masher or electric mixer, and add butter, egg and yolk, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  If you like, place potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.  Preheat the oven broiler.  You can place the stew mixture into individual baking dishes or leave right in the Dutch oven.  Pipe potatoes on top of stew, or evenly drop on stew and make a design with a fork.  Place 6 inches from the broiler element to brown.  Serve immediately.

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