Tag Archives: sage

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Can I have a car air freshener in Shepherd’s Pie??  For Shirley’s birthday, my boss decided we’d all make an ethnic food and share during lunch.  There was everything from Thai food to Polish to my Irish Sheppard’s Pie (mutilated, as Brandon says, because I made it vegetarian and it is usually rich with meat).

You should buy:

  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 ounce portabella mushrooms
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, and cut into large dice
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. sage leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

With a whisk, whip together the cream of mushroom soup, your choice of dry red wine (I used a cheap brand, but the addition of wine really perked up the adult taste buds), tomato paste and flour. When the liquid is creamy and smooth, set aside for some time to let the flavors meld.

Chop up your potatoes and place in a large, covered, boiling pot of water.  Cook until they almost fall of a fork when poked, about 20-30 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add in a handful of mushrooms (don’t overcrowd them, just enough to evenly cover the bottom of the pan) and cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are browned on both sides.  Place in a separate bowl, and then repeat until all of the mushrooms are completely browned.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in the now empty pan and toss in your onion, celery, garlic, carrots and seasonings. 

 Cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions become translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, mushroom broth mix to the pan making sure to scrape the sides of the pan and bottom to keep from burning. Simmer for 3 minutes.  Plop in the mushrooms and cook at a simmering stage until thick and darker maroon in color, approximately 8 minutes.

Strain the liquid from the potatoes and return to the pot.  

Mash together the potato chunks, 2 Tbsp. butter and cream with an electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes or until smooth and whipped. Season with salt and pepper.

In a pie dish, 9″ x 9″ baking dish or mini bread loaf pans, spread the vegetable mixture over the bottom.

On top, dot the potatoes all the way across to the edges.  Take your fork and sporadically dip in and out of the top of the potatoes to create little peaks and valleys. These will become a crunchy texture in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. The vegetable mixture may bubble, breaking the potatoes away from the sides.  If you like the top more crunchy and browned, turn on the broiler and heat for 5 more minutes.

I chose to cook this in disposable mini bread tins for the sole purpose of reheating them at lunch in the toaster oven. They fit perfectly.  I tossed them in the oven to cook before leaving for work and by lunch, they only needed about 5 minutes of reheating.  I drove all the way to work (just under an hour) to work smelling this deliciousness and somehow managed to dispel the urge to pop open a pie and dig in.  The mix made about 7 minis: one for my mom, two and a half for lunch, and three for people to take home.

 

Just the smell was enough to make someone do a happy dance.  The mushrooms (could have been chopped smaller) mixed with cream of mushroom soup helped to make a hearty, thick vegetarian version of this hodgepodge of a dish.  The potatoes fill your stomach right up, as Irish food is known for, and the butter and cream helped to flavor the bland starch some.  I used Lucky Duck Shiraz, a cheap wine, but it supplied the distinct, incomparable oomph necessary to make a meat dish turned vegetarian work.  The potatoes just melt in your mouth, and dissipate some of the saltiness of the cream of mushroom soup.

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Spaghetti Squash Soup Risotto with Sage

This recipe, though not spicy and not exactly according to the directions, turned out pretty decent! I give all the credit to my cooking buddy, Tobi, who fixed several of my mindless mishaps happening  due to a brain shut down after the 5 o’clock workday was over.  He, again, found the recipe courtesy of the Epicurious app. 

Add to your shopping list: 
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash,halved and seeded
1 cup vegetable oil
20 whole fresh sage leaves plus 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups good-quality canned vegetable broth (such as Swanson)
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain rice
1/4 cup raspberry jam or medium-dry Sherry or Marsala
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, divided
Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
4 ounces crisply cooked coarsely crumbled thinly sliced pancetta (optional)

Start out by cutting the squash in half and removing the seeds. Sprinkle olive oil onto a roasting pan and place the two squash halves face down in an oven at 400 degrees Farenheit for one hour.  When cool enough, scrape out the spaghetti-like pale yellow strands of squash into a mixing bowl and discard the rind.  If you have children, they will love to help out with this part as the insides are crazy piles of stringy mush. Just be careful, as this is hot.

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While the squash is roasting heat up the one cup of vegetable oil in a frying pan. When the temperature reaches 365 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer, drop the sage in in batches for 3-5 seconds or until crispy removing with a slotted spoon and placing on paper towel to drain.

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In a large soup pot add in a Tbsp of olive oil with the onions,stirring often, allowing to cook until softened.  Stir in the garlic and chopped sage heating until the steam becomes aromatic, around a minute.  Next, plop in the golden squash, vegetable broth and water.  Simmer for twenty minutes to blend the flavors into the broth.

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In a blender in batches, puree the soupy mixture.  Watch your hands, this is very hot.  Transfer the portions of soup to a bowl as you finish blending.  When all the brew is completely liquid, return to the pot to reheat. 

At this point in the recipe, I realized I was following the completely wrong directions and making soup, not risotto. They both had pancetta, pine nuts, kabocha squash and sage. It made for an excellent blend of flavors into a scrumptous winter or fall soup.  It wasn’t too thick like pumpkin soup can often be and not as sweet as pumpkin, but more perfumed, dense and herby. All the recipe would need from here is a little salt and pepper and sherry if desired.  We decided to go ahead and continue attempting to make this into a risotto, which still came out fulfilling. image

 

To continue into a risotto, stir in sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I accidentally dumped quite a few whole white crystals of sea salt into the pot.  It needed a bit of flavor, but that was just a notch below too much.  So, I learned from Tobi that to counteract the saltiness I just added, add a sweet.  I also didn’t realize cooking wine and sherry are two different infusions entirely. Without sherry or a decent red wine in the house, he added in raspberry jam.  It brought the salty nature to a rest and upped the flavor combination of sweet, sage-herb, and garlic. 

Next, I would recommend cooking the arborio rice in another pot, but we threw it right into the bubbling liquid and waited until it cooked to soft texture (could have cooked a little longer, but that will be a learning lesson for the future).  If you cook the rice separate, you will want to still add it into the liquid and cook for a few minutes to meld the sweet soup flavor into each rice grain cooking until everything is almost to a creamy-like state. 

As you spoon your meal into individual bowls, each person can choose to add a little pancetta, roasted pine nuts or shaved parmesan on top.  If your dish remains a tad less oversalted than mine, this will increase the savory, salty, cheesy aspect of the rice-only meal.  It is great as an appetizer, but filling enough to be an entire meal with a salad on the side.  Another idea is to leave the items in the dish whole instead of blending them for a variety of texture with the malleableness of the rice.

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