Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shepherd's Pie with Bison

Featured Ingredient:

I've been staring at that square package of bison for years.  (Not the same one, just every time I look in the organic, more expensive meat section at Stop & Shop it taunts me.)  I'm not too adventurous when it comes to meat.  I've tried ostrich in the past.  I ate boar and sweet breads (the thymus gland of a calf) in culinary school, so maybe I could handle this. It is funny that sweet breads are considered part of the "offal" family of cuisine. Take a second and think about what "offal" sounds like.

 I took the plunge and bought the ground bison meat.  Flavor and texture wise bison it wasn't much of a departure from ground beef.   I figure next time I'll make bison sliders and call them "buffalo chips."

The bison was an interesting twist on a very traditional dish of Shepherd's Pie.  This dish reminds me of the my childhood as it was 1 of the 5 dishes in my mother's evening meal rotation.  After she went back to work when I was 10, peeling the potatoes became one of my after school responsibilities, so they were ready when she came home.

In spite of the bison, this is not my mother's shepherd's pie. 
Serves 6

1 lb ground bison or ground beef
1 small onion chopped
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine (merlot)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots*

Peel potatoes and put them on to boil.

Brown beef in a large skillet and drain a a majority of the fat.  Remove to another plate.  In remaining fat add onion and saute until nearly translucent.  Add garlic and saute a couple of minutes until fragrant. Return bison to skillet and add thyme, marjoram, tomato paste, wine, broth, and worcestershire sauce, stir to combine. Add peas and carrots. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, until beef mixture is slightly thickened and vegetables are tender - about 8 minutes.

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled, cut up and boiled until very tender
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup or more 2% milk as needed
Salt and Pepper to taste

When potatoes are cooked, add cream, butter and parmesan cheese and milk.  Mix and mash.  Add additional milk if needed to get a creamy, smooth, yet slightly stiff and spreadable consistency.  You should be able to stand a fork in it.

Put meat in bottom layer of baking dish and top with potatoes.

To Bake or Not to Bake:

Most Shepherd's Pie recipe recommend baking the dish 25 minutes at 350-400 degrees. I don't think this makes the dish taste any better. It forms a skin on the top potato layer and delays the time before you can dig into this comforting deliciousness.  If you want a nice presentation, throw it under the broiler for a few minutes - under close watch until lightly browned.  Otherwise when you spread the potatoes over the meat,  you are technically done.

Shepherd's Pie with Bison
*My mom used canned peas and carrots for her pie. Even though this blog is all about Uncanny Goodness, I feel canned peas and carrots produce an inferior final product for this particular application vs. the frozen vegetables. The tenderness of the frozen veggies holds up better during the cooking process.  You can still use canned veggies in a pinch.

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