Sunday, March 11, 2012

Casserole or Hotdish?

Casserole or Hotdish?

I didn't grow up on casseroles or as they say here in Minnesota, Hotdish. It was one of many nuances I've learned in my now 17 year here; cottage & cabin, pier and dock, keg & barrel, hassock & ottoman, the list goes on and on and on.  Bubler is a dead give away that my roots are in Wisconsin and I can't tell you how pleased I was when I heard my 11 year old,  born and raised here in the twin cities, ask where the bubler way....made mama proud!

At any rate, I've been cooking a lot over the past three months, I have two friends fighting cancer, both with kids and I wanted to help them out the best I could.  Since I posses no cure, work 50+ hours a week and feel like a chauffeur on nights and weekends the best way I can think to help them out is to cook or provide services like cleaning, laundry etc.....Food seemed to be the one thing they both could appreciate and accept without hesitation.  That worked out well for for all of us.

I had run out of ideas and asked H what she would like. In the midst of a 5 day chemo she had shared that her cravings during chemo turned to what else? Comfort food.  She wanted a hot dish.  I didn't know what to do. I don't do hot dish.  I started to read up on this Minnesota delicacy and decided a version of Shepard's pie was what I was going to tackle.  My research had listed Mac and Cheese, Chicken and Dumplings and Shepard's Pie as the top comfort dishes in this region.  Since I had already made the first two for my friends I decided the third was a must.  I made lots of changes to meet the needs of H, which was LOTS of vegetables and the rest is what I came up with.  I thought it tasted great.  Probably offensive to those whose Grandma made traditional Shepard's Pie so I apologize if you are offended, here is my version. Please keep in mind I was cooking for two families and it made two hearty 9x9 pans, cut in half if needed.

2 Lbs extra lean ground beef
2 Cups onions diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 Lb mushrooms, sliced
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Cup fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 small yellow squash, cubed
10 asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 Cup peas
1/2 Cup corn
1Cup chicken stock

2T Flour
2t Worcestershire
2T tomato paste
1/2 t fresh pepper, ground
1 t salt
1/2 t thyme

Start by making your favorite type of mashed potato for the topping.  For this particular day I used reds and added a touch of Parmesan. While potatoes are boiling start the filling.

Saute onions, mushrooms and carrots in a bit of heated oil, once they start to cook down add the garlic and cook for another few minutes.  Add the beef, salt, and pepper and cook until brown.  Tilt saute pan and spoon out all but one or two Tablespoons of fat.  Add green beans, squash and asparagus and cook for two or three minutes.  Sprinkle two Tablespoons of flour over mixture and toss until coated.  Add tomato paste, stock, Worcestershire, thyme and mix well.  Once reduced, 10 minutes or so, stir in peas and corn.

Spread evenly into an 11x7 pan, topping with the mashed potatoes of your choice. I like to use a pastry bag and make florets of pattern.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes if mixture is hot.  If making ahead, plan for an hour.

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