After an amazing race, the Lamb and Eggplant Shepherd's Pie emerged victorious. (I have to admit that I was excited about this one and voted for it myself.) There are several steps to this recipe so I decided to break it down into two nights. I have come to find out over the past few years that you can substitute "comfort food" with "takes a long time to cook." I made the filling and potatoes on Wednesday and then assembled and cooked on Thursday.
There are two main portions to any shepherd's pie--the filling and the topping. The topping is creamy, made from peeled Russett potatoes, butter, goat cheese and whole milk. This was a departure from the usual mashed potatoes that I have come to love. Usually, I roast a couple of heads of garlic in the oven and squeeze out the cloves into unpeeled Yukon Golds with butter and heavy cream. The filling was good, especially the lamb. I don't eat a lot lamb and loved finding little pieces tucked in the pie. The meat was by far the most interesting part of the dish; but due to the lengthy prep and cook time, I don't think that I am going to make this one again.
I may be breaking some polling rules here, but I had to let everyone know about this Black-Eyed Pea and Shrimp situation. Those of you looking for an easy, affordable Fat Tuesday meal--this is the one! All you need is some king cake and Turbo Dog to make your Marti Gras meal complete.
On the way home from dinner at Belga Cafe' (go with the steak) with friends, Ms. Supertaster had the idea to post a weekly menu so that readers will have some idea of what is going on in the kitchen besides just the posted recipes. This morning I though I could take her wonderful idea one step further and make this whole experience interactive. Here is what I am planning on making this week--now vote on what you want to read about!
This recipe immediately jumped out at me from the last Bon Appetit because of the unique technique of wrapping the fillets with potato. There is actually a step-by-step lesson in the back of the magazine. It seemed challenging and delicious. I began by slicing the Yukon Gold potatoes as thin as possible with my chef's knife -- Bon Appetit recommends using a mandolin or V-slicer. I feel like I am handy with a knife and am looking forward to improving when I go to CulinAerie in a few weekends. I cut the potatoes thin, but apparently not thin enough. Even when I "pressed to adhere" as it called for in the recipe, I could not get the potatoes to stay wrapped. When I started to pan fry the fillets, they immediately fell apart. Not to be denied, I set up the Cuisinart and tried to slice the potatoes using one of the attachments. This process created mini potato chips that I used to cover a thinly slice piece of fish. Still a total disaster.
The photo to the left is what Bon Appetit advertised; the other is my best (and third) attempt. I don't know if mandolin would have helped--this meal is not easy to make. Even if you could get the potato around the fish, it would be hard to fry the potatoes and fish so one didn't get over or undercooked.
"This is a keeper." That's all the feedback I got from my dinner guest this evening (Ms. Supertaster is out of town this week), but he did clean his plate. Who wouldn't be a part of the Clean Plate Club with a bourbon soaked hunk of pork on it?
The most impressive part of this recipe is the short amount of time it takes to make the light, flavorful sauce. The fresh mint really complements the pork and the sweetness of the sauce. But, in all honesty, for me it was all about the bourbon. I am a big bourbon backer and was psyched to find a meal that incorporated my favorite booze. For those of you looking to get into bourbon, I recommend starting with the Eagle Rare Reserve. It is easy on both the the palate and the pocketbook. Corner Creek is outstanding, if you can find it. (I received a bottle as a wedding present from the same couple who brought the fryer into my life. You might want to make room on the guest list for those two.) If you have an extra C-note lying around, feel free to buy me a bottle of Pappy. I just sipped on the 12-year and can't imagine what the 20-year family reserve has in store.
The only major change was to the cut of the pork chop. I substituted a center cut butterflied chop for the bone-in rib chop because they didn't offer anything else at the farmers market. The cooking time was longer than advertised and I had to stick the chops in the oven to achieve the desired temperature. I also served a side of garlic mashed potatoes that were left over from the low-key-V-day meal.
Most recipes include active prep time and start to finish time. I pay attention to these times to achieve my goal of getting dinner on the table by eight. Tonight I decided to put these times (and my prep skills) to the test. I cooked Pork, Mushroom, and Snow-Pea Stir-Fry from Gourmet's Quick Kitchen section while using my trusty stopwatch. This meal advertises an active time of 10 minutes, and 20 minutes from start to finish; but what times are we talking about for the cook that likes to drink a vodka tonic during preparation?
I started the clock and immediately got the rice steaming. Removing the strings from the Snow-Peas took the longest time, but luckily I have minced enough garlic to complete both preps in about five minutes. I moved to trimming the pork tenderloin--thankfully, a lean cut of meat--and sliced it. I didn't cut any corners in the cooking process. I cooked the pork, then the snow-pea and garlic, followed by the mushrooms. By the time everything was cooked through and plated, we were looking at just over 30 minutes. I was well over the buzzer.
Now to the meal! Best of all pork ended up tender, while the veggies stayed crisp. The sauce, only flavored by teriyaki, was a bit weak. I snuck in some hoisin when nobody was looking to provide a much needed punch.