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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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Andrew’s Veg-Friendly Puttanesca Sauce

Andrew claims there is more than one vegetarian-friendly recipe in his repertoire, and I’m sure hoping because this recipe was out of this world.  Next time, the sous chef gets to help out with more than cutting the onion and garlic and stirring.

While at the store, pick up:

  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 jar Kalamata olives
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 box Rigatoni
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (more for drinking)
  • 1 loaf of bread +butter and garlic

Start by prepping the onions, mushrooms and garlic by roughly chopping. 

Sauté the onion with oil for 2 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. 

Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.  Turn down the heat, toss in the garlic and cook until aromatic. 

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, begin cooking the pasta and sprinkle in a little sea salt to the water.

Pit the olives and slice a knife lengthwise through the batch a few times for a chunky chopped look. 

Heat them in the sauté pan for a few minutes.

 

Top with the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Stir until hot.

 

Drain the pasta, adding 1/4-1/2 cup of the starchy water to the sauce.  The starch will thicken it.  Continue stirring to it from splattering and sputtering all over the oven-top.  Pour in the wine, stirring for another minute or so.  Mix in the drained pasta and top with a few capers.

See my previous Garlic Bread recipe for the remaining ingredients.

Rigatoni holds little chunks of mushroom and olives inside its short tube whilst squishing out warm tomato sauce onto your taste buds with each bite.  The big globs of mushrooms and olives created a thickness and texture to the sauce, segregating it from bland store-bought Ragu.  Even though there is no meat in the sauce, the mushrooms create a smooth, unseasoned meat consistency and flavoring to the meal.  The olives, kalamata ones in particular, add in the salty twang (like the capers) with a meaty heartiness.  Paired with sweet, yet tart, acidic tomatoes, you end up with a well-rounded palate for dinner.  Don’t forget to add in a glass of wine and garlic bread.

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