My husband Greg’s mother, Shirley, made him Shepherd’s Pie when he was a boy growing up in Oregon. As a girl growing up in Texas, I have had Taco Pie, Tamale Pie and Frito Pie — but Greg had to describe his mother’s Shepherd’s Pie to me. It took me a couple of tries, but it wasn’t long before I served him a slice of pie worthy of his mom’s memory. How I wish I had known her. Greg played me an old video of Shirley when she was about the age I am now, doing the Charleston to the delight of her kids and grandchildren. I am sure we would have loved each other! Shirley passed away much too soon, when Greg was still in his thirties. She would have been 82 years old… today. Happy Birthday, Shirley, I hope you can see how happy, kind and generally all-around wonderful your son has grown up to be, from your window in heaven.
You can see my husband’s feet, as he was standing like a happy, hungry little boy in the background, waiting for me to hurry up and take a picture of this Rustic-Style Shepherd’s Pie so he could carry the hot pan back in the house and enjoy it for supper:)
Over the years, I have simplified the recipe so I can make it faster and easier. By using Golden Potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes, I can simply “smash them” in the pan I cooked them in, without peeling them or using a mixer to make them smooth and fluffy. We like a few chunks of potato and bits of peel in this recipe. These potatoes also taste buttery without having to use a ton of butter. Finally, by baking the mixture in the same iron skillet where I cooked up the gravy, meat and veggies – you save having to wash yet another dish.
Re-creating your mate’s favorite childhood recipes is the closest you can get sometimes, to allowing them to filled “hugged again” by someone they loved as a little boy or girl.
If you want to wear something in a pretty shade of green, may I suggest you buy a copy of our book, below, and attach it, like a little sandwich board around your neck. It is what all the cool Irish folk will be wearing on St. Patty’s Day!
Rustic Shepherd’s Pie in an Iron Skillet
1 ½ lb ground beef
6 fresh mushrooms, chopped
¾ cup corn, frozen
2/3 cup frozen peas
5 carrots, peeled, cooked and sliced or diced (I usually microwave these in a small covered dish with a little water)
1 T. grill seasoning (or 2 t. salt, 1 t. pepper)
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 T. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups beef broth (if you don’t have this on hand you can mix up some dry onion soup mix with water, or use 1/4 cup miso paste and water, or a a couple of bullion cubes and water to make 1 1/2 cups.)
½ cup red wine
2 T. half-n-half (optional)
6 Golden, thin-skinned buttery potatoes (about the size of tennis balls)
2 T. Ranch dressing prepared
1 T. butter
Half-n-half or milk – approximately anywhere from 1/3 to 1 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Scrub and quarter potatoes, but no need to peel, then place in a large pot with salted water (about 2 t. salt & water about 2 inches above the potatoes).Put them on the back burner to boil and in the meantime…
In a large skillet, lightly brown the beef with grill seasoning, then drain off any extra fat. Then add the mushrooms and cook untl they are soft and have released their juices. Next add the frozen corn, frozen peas and cooked carrots. Heat through.
In a separate iron skillet, make the gravy: melt butter with olive oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle flour over the bubbling oil-butter mixture and stir with whisk to make a smooth paste. Add garlic and stir. Continue to whisk while slowing adding broth and wine, stirring and simmering until gravy has thickened. You don’t want it to be too thick… as more liquid will evaporate with baking and some will soak into veggies.
Carefully pour the meat and veggies into the gravy. Add half-n-half if you desire a creamier gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat while you smash the potatoes.
Drain the boiling water off of the potatoes when they are tender, leaving hot potatoes in the hot pan. Add Ranch dressing, butter and half-n-half or milk, ¼ cup at a time and smash (with skins on) with a potato masher. (Don’t use a mixer as there is too much gluten in golden potatoes and you’ll end up with glue.) Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a large spoon, gently put mounds of potatoes over the beef and veggie mixture, and spread evenly to the edges of the skillet.
Place in 350 oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and tops of potatoes begin to get a little golden.
Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve. When it is fresh and hot out of the oven it is easier to serve in wide bowls, but the next day, after refrigeration, you can slice it like pie, heat up in microwave and serve.
I like to serve a few fresh slices of tomatoes with this dish and call it dinner!
Although it is raining today, just a few days ago this was the view from my backyard porch swing in Denver Colorado.
And yes, that probably is a yellow flower blooming from big toe — because that is just how happy I am to finally see Spring come to the Rockies.
With the coming of warm weather, I get to dust off the ol’ grill and make some of my favorite summer recipes. This easy recipe for steak marinade works just as well for chicken breasts. The longer you let the beef or chicken bathe in the bag, the happier it gets, but for the steak even four hours will do the trick.
Years ago when I had more energy, lots of kids and a big need for income, I was a caterer and this recipe for marinated chicken or steak was my number one, never fail, go-to main dish. People loved it and requested it again and again!
I am not sure why but it really does bring out the most tender flavor in grilled meat. It is not overly sweet either, as some teriyaki marinated meats tend to be — but just the right the balance. The pineapple juice adds a touch of flavor, but it is a fresh and light background note. Doesn’t cloyingly ring of pineapple.
Nothing says, “Summer is on its way!” like the smell of food on the grill, and a gathering of friends on the porch. This would be absolutely perfect to make for Mother’s Day, which is coming up soon. And by the way, if you are looking for a pretty perfect Mother’s Day Gift — something to entertain and inspire and cheer your mom (or your wife or your daughter or grandmother, or your daughter is now a mom herself), may we recommend a copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?
For any of you who may live near Alexandria, Indiana (or know someone who does), Rachel and I will be speaking and doing a food demonstration at the Annual Spring Tea, this Saturday May 13, 2014, at 11:00 at Gaither Family Resources. (Click on the link “Gaither Family Resources” and scroll down to the Spring Tea information box for ticket prices and the number to call to make reservations.) We would love to see you, hug your neck and possibly sign a book for you or your mother in person! Ya’ll come!
Juicy, Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Flank Steak
1 flank steak
Grill Seasoning, about a teaspoon (or enough to season both sides of the steak)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup pineapple juice (or drain the juice from a can of pineapple rings)
1 T. olive oil
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed with side of knife
Oil for grill pan, if cooking indoors
Season both sides of a flank steak with Grill Seasoning (or salt, pepper and garlic powder). Add the rest of the ingredients to a large, Ziploc bag and carefully squeeze the contents to mix. Place the flank steak in the bag of marinade, seal the bag then squeeze and turn the bag to coat both sides of the steak. Put in fridge to marinate, turning once or twice in the process and marinate anywhere from four to 10 hours.
Fire up the outdoor grill or use a grill pan over high heat (put a little olive oil in the pan if cooking indoors). Place steak on the grill and sear one side until golden brown with nice dark grill marks. Turn over and grill the other side. Then cover the grill pan or close the grill and let it cook for another minute or two. Remove and put on a plate, cover the meat with foil and let it sit so that juices distribute throughout the meat. While the meat is sitting, lightly grill small slices of pineapple (fresh or canned), and bring the leftover marinade to a boil. Spoon some of the marinade over the steak and decorate with pineapple to show it off! When you are ready to serve, remove pineapple slices, cut the steak in thin slices across the grain, giving each person a pineapple half and a drizzle of sauce.
The nice thing about serving a big piece of steak like this is that you serve the outer slices to those who prefer their meat more done, and for those who prefer their meat more on the rare side, serve them slices from the middle of the steak.
Depending on the size of the steak, it will usually feed anywhere from 4 to six people. Delicious with rice or mashed potatoes or pasta; a green salad or steamed/roasted green veggie is tasty and beautiful.
(Becky, the Mama)
One of my longtime friends and I share private joke between us: “I’ll bring the meatloaf.”
It all began when a major crisis dropped into my friend’s lap one day, and on my way out the door to meet her at a restaurant, I looked in my fridge and grabbed what I had on hand – some leftover meatloaf. Others might have stopped to pick up flowers, or a card, or perhaps a book to encourage their hurting friend. Leave it to me to grab leftover meatloaf. Someone is hurting? My auto-response is to feed them. When people are in pain, I turn into a character not unlike the mothers from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “You no feel happy? No worry, I make you meatloaf.”
I listened emphatically as my dear friend shared her heart-wrenching dilemma, hopefully creating a soft, safe space for her pain to land. As we were parting, I reached down in a little bag and pulled out a Tupperware container. “I’m so sorry you are going through this. With all my heart, I wish I could fix everything. But since I can’t, and I brought you some meatloaf.”
We both laughed, even through the misty tears. And that’s how “meatloaf” became a symbol of tangible caring between us. As in most friendships, my friend and I have taken turns being in crisis, so it wasn’t long before something tough happened in my life, and I was the one in emotional agony. This time she brought the “meatloaf”—which evolved to mean comfort food in any form: from a bottle of wine, to a home-cooked meal, to guacamole and chips at a favorite Mexican joint.
When words fail me, giving gifts of home-cooked food has always helped fill the gaps. And when it comes to sharing a dinner of comfort, few dishes hit the mark like my homemade sweet n’ spicy mini meat loaves. The great thing about meat loaf is that it is one of those meals that keeps on giving. There’s nothing like a meatloaf sandwich for lunch, the day after its debut as dinner’s entree. It’s tasty hot, warm or cold.
This meat loaf is a take-off on the best Old School Meatloaf Recipe in America’s History: the one on the back of the Lipton Onion Soup Mix box. I tweak it a bit, using soft bread, and less water. I am not normally a big fan of packaged mixes, but there’s something about the Lipton soup in this recipe that makes it taste like the best meatloaf of my childhood memories. It is never mushy, always firm, flavorful and slices beautifully.
To me, most meatloaf never has enough sauce. So I am generous with the rich sweet and spicy topping, and by cooking it in an oblong Pyrex pan, rather than a loaf pan, you get a more generous sauce-to-meat ratio. When you separate the seasoned meat into small sections before baking into mini-loaves, it also cuts the cooking time in half and the meat is cooked uniformly, all the way through.
This is a meal that stays on permanent rotation at our house, one of our top favorite dinners. I make it at least once a month, year round. Twice, if a friend is in crisis.
Becky’s Sweet n’ Spicy Mini Meat Loaves
Serves six to ten people
1 package of dry Lipton onion soup mix
2 slices of soft wheat bread
¼ c. water
1/3 c. catsup
2 lb ground bison or lean beef (preferably organic, grass-fed, no antibiotics)
2/3 c. catsup
1/3 c. chunky bottled chunky style salsa
1/3 c. brown sugar
Into a blender or food processor, put the first five ingredients.
Pour this mixture into a big bowl along with 2 pounds of ground beef.
Using your hands (I put little disposable sandwich bags on them), work the seasoning-bread mixture into the beef.
Pat into a large, oblong Pyrex pan.
Using the side of your hand or end of a wooden spoon, “cut” the flat loaf into equal “mini loaves.” It will look like little irrigation ditches alongside the mounds of meat.
Bake twenty to thirty minutes or until loaves are cooked through, draining off any grease as the meatloaves cook.
While meat is cooking make the sauce: put catsup, brown sugar, and salsa in sauce pan; heat and stir until sugar melts
When meat loaves when they are done, ladle the sauce over the top. (If you have some leftover, save it and serve with the meal for those who want extra.) Put loaves-with-sauce back in oven and turn to broil. Broil until sauce is thickened caramelized.
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I gave my mom and dad the DVDs to Downton Abbey, which they apparently enjoyed as much as Greg and I did. (Though she calls it Downtown Abbey, which I think is adorable so I’m not going to correct her.) The PBS Masterpiece Theater upper crust soap opera has taken America by storm. But it should come with a warning, one that my mother put so well in an email the other night. “Your father and I can hardly speak plain English anymore.” Alas, ’tis true.
Greg and I also got bit by the Downton Vocal Bug as we watched two hours of the DVD series night after night. It grew apparent as we were readying for bed one evening and I heard a loud “whack” in the walk-in closet followed by my husband announcing, in a victorious British accent, “I have vanquished a moth!” I paused in the middle of applying my night cream to comment dramatically, “How terribly brave of you, Darling.”
We are fascinated with the servants from the show, called valets (“t” is pronounced), whose sole job it was to help rich people get into and out of their clothes, shoes, and jewelry, along with keeping the garments washed, pressed and ready to wear at a whim. How I would love a valet, if only to keep my clothes off the closet floor and clean underwear in our drawers.
My father asked about our 4th of July plans yesterday and I told him, “We are just enjoying down time today. Or as we like to call it, ‘Downtime Becky.'” And I have to say, the meal I produced for the two of us was worthy of royalty. Especially the steak.
I am not a big ‘hunk of meat’ fan, as a general rule. I prefer meat as an appetizer with veggies and fruits taking up the bulk of my plate. But a petite tenderloin steak, cooked to medium rare perfection and topped with bar-b-que sauce and green chilis, a tender cut of meat that is incredibly juicy and slices like butter… well, this is hard not to love.
So I bequeath this recipe to you, to be cooked and served and savored on special occasions when you want to feel rich, and pampered and spoiled. And if you haven’t seen the two seasons of Downton Abbey, do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or buy them. You are in for a royal treat.
BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis
Two tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick, brought to room temperature
1 T. grill or steak seasoning
2 t. Worchestershire sauce
2 T. olive oil
2 T Bar-b-que sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
2 T. chopped green chilis
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour oil into an oven proof skillet, or preferably, a grill pan. Let the pan and oil get “screaming hot.” In the meantime, pierce one side of the steaks with a fork in several places; turn the steaks over and pierce the other side as well. Sprinkle both sides generously with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it in a little with your hands.
Put the steaks into the grill pan on high, and sear until the meat is golden brown with dark grill marks, just a few minutes. Turn the steaks over and repeat.
Put a tablespoon of bbq sauce and a tablespoon of green chilis on top of each steak, then put the skillet of steaks in the oven for five minutes to let finish cooking in the middle.
I like our steaks medium rare so this amount of time is usually perfect for us, but of course, cook the steaks to your desired temperature. A digital meat thermometer is a wonderful thing for this job. Pull the pan out of the oven and tent the steaks loosely with foil for at least three minutes to let them sit and juices distribute. Serve to oohs and ahhs and applause.