Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to School Cooking: Cottage (Shepherd's) Pie & Chicken Pot Pie

It never fails. Every year for the first two weeks of school (at least), I come home completely exhausted. I lie down for a nap, and the next thing I know, it's 6:00 pm, and I'm too tired or its too late to cook anything, so the hubs is either getting on the Dominos website or offering me macaroni and cheese (with bacon bits if I'm lucky). With my fourth year of teaching looming nigh, I now know this transition period from summer vacation is coming, and this year I decided to take some time out of the summertime I have left to make us a few of our favorite meals to put in the freezer and last us through those first fateful weeks. Not that I have anything against Dominos or mac-n-cheese....

Both pies are fantastic fresh or frozen. You could even cook one fresh and freeze the other if you're feeling a little crazy! I bought a 4-pack of aluminum 8x8 pans at Walmart that I used for freezing. Let the dishes cool and wrap with two layers each of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Make sure to have the cooking instructions handy when you get around to eating it!

I wish I would've taken more pictures, but I didn't think about it until after I was almost done. C'est la vie.

Cottage (Shepherd's) Pie

Adapted from BBC Good Food and the McGuire's Irish Pub Cookbook

Side note: I had to add the "Cottage" to the title or the Brits would be after me. Traditionally, in the US we call this dish "Shepherd's Pie" regardless of the meat used (usually beef). Overseas, to be a "Shepherd's Pie", the dish is made with lamb or mutton (hence the "shepherd" part). If it's made with beef, the dish is known as "Cottage Pie". (No idea what you'd call this if it was made with ground turkey. Turkeyherder's Pie?)The more you know.... 

For the Filling:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 lbs ground beef
3 carrots, peeled & chopped*
3 celery stalks, chopped*
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
large glass of red wine (optional...but gives it an AMAZING flavor!)
26 oz beef stock
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground thyme (or 2-3 fresh springs)
1/2 tsp ground sage
Salt & Pepper to taste

*I'm a fan of a vegetable-y cottage pie, and, to be honest, if I'd had a couple bags of frozen mixed veggies, I would've used that instead. Or you can omit them completely if you like a veggie-less pie. Whatever suits your fancy! Just adjust the instructions as needed. 

For the Mash:
2.25 lbs (about 5 lg) potatoes, peeled & cubed
1lb (about 4) parsnips, peeled & sliced (if you've never put parsnips in your potatoes before, you're in for a treat....simply amazing! Try roasting any extra for another food-nirvana experience.)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper to taste

First, brown the meat. I ended up doing it in two batches. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Sauté half of the onion until translucent, then add half of the ground beef. Cook until brown and crumbled, then drain and repeat with the other half. Set aside.

In an empty skillet, add the last tbsp of olive oil and sauté the celery and carrots until tender, about 15 minutes. Add in the garlic, tomato paste, and flour. Stir. Return the beef and onions to the skillet. Add the wine, if using, and allow it to boil for a minute to reduce. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the gravy is thick. Adjust seasonings as needed, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs (if using fresh). Evenly divide between two of the 8x8 pans. Set aside.

While the filling is cooling, bring a large pot of water to a boil with the potatoes and parsnips. Cook until tender. Drain. Add the parsley, butter, cream, and salt and pepper. Mash/mix until smooth. (I used my stand mixer. Worked like a charm!).

Spread the mash mixture on top of the filling in each pan. Set it aside to cool for the freezer, or cook in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden brown and puffed.

To cook out of the freezer, thaw overnight in the fridge and follow the regular instructions.

Chicken Pot Pie

Adapted from Fabulously Frugal

Side Note: Mine are actually turkey pot pies from a turkey breast I'd roasted previously. You can easily use a whole roasted chicken instead of cooking the pieces of chicken like it calls for. Makes the whole process a little easier!

For the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds chicken
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
           (or omit both and use a whole roasted chicken)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped 
1 garlic clove, minced 
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 dried tarragon
2 small bags of frozen mixed veggies (or whatever veggie combo you prefer)

For the crust:
2 pre-made refrigerated crusts (easy way...or you can make the crusts yourself. Use your favorite pie crust recipe and make two crusts)
1 large egg, beaten (plus another large egg, beaten, for baking)

If cooking the chicken, put it with the chicken broth in a pot or dutch oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, making sure not to over-cook. (Since you cook it more later.) Remove the chicken from the pot, reserving the broth. Let the chicken cool a bit, then shred. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, rimmed skillet. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic. Remove from the skillet and set aside. 

Return the skillet to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly, making a blonde roux. Slowly whisk in the reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer and stir regularly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes, taking care not to let the bottom burn. Add seasonings, and adjust as needed. Remove from the heat and stir the chicken and vegetables into the sauce. 

Evenly divide the mixture between two 8x8 pans. Cover each pan with one of the pie crust, rolling up and crimping the excess. Cut four 1-inch vents near the middle of the crust. 

Allow to cool before wrapping for the freezer. 

To cook, give the crust an egg wash and place in a 400-degree oven. Bake covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered 35 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before digging in! 

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