Today was really one of the first real "fall" days in New England. It stayed a crisp 62 or so all day, despite sunny conditions.
I have this rule that I won't wear socks until the first snow. Hell, I won't even bother with a jacket before then either (a sweater is ok, if you don't mind wearing the t-shirt that says "Colossal Pussy" over it). But, I will break down and make comfort food if there is the barest indication of fall chill in air.
Tonight, giddy with the prospect of comfort food looming on my horizon, I couldn't quite decide between baked stuffed potatoes, beef pot pie or shepherd's pie. So I made an amalgam of all of it. Behold Shepherd's Pot:
For Potato Topping
2 lbs. red potatoes
3 T. salt
1/3 c. half and half
2 T. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese (I used Jarlsberg)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
black pepper to taste
For Beef Filling
12 oz. bag of frozen mixed corn, peas, carrots and green beans, cooked according to package directions
8 oz. mushrooms, medium dice (I used a mixture of crimini and shiitake)
4 shallots, sliced
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1.25 lbs lean ground beef (I used 96% lean)
3/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 c. broth (chicken, beef or veggie)
2 t. corn starch
1.5 T. water
leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
a 9"x13" casserole pan
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Make potato topping
1. Cut potatoes into large chunks and place in a 6 quart pot. Fill 3/4 of the way with cold water and add the salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Then add the potatoes back to the still warm pot and shake them around a bit to dry them out.
2. Mash the potatoes with a masher or a fork over medium low heat. Stir in the minced garlic. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the half and half. Stir until the liquid is absorbed by the potatoes. Then stir in the cheese, reserving a 1/2 c. Add black pepper to taste. Check seasonings. Let cool. Before using the potatoes as a topping, stir in the beaten eggs until well combined. Use to top the casserole.
Make beef filling
1. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Saute the mushrooms and shallots until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are brown. Raise the heat to high. Add the beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon. Cook until well browned. Add the cooked vegetables, the red wine and the broth. Bring to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan for any browned, stuck bits. Add the water to the corn starch and stir until dissolved. Stir the corn starch mixture into the pan. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens a bit. Add the thyme and check for seasonings.
Make the casserole
1. Spray a 9"x13" casserole pan with Pam. Spread the beef filling on the bottom of the casserole. Spread the potato mixture carefully on top of the beef filling, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and a few more grinds of black pepper. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. If the casserole is not brown enough for you by the end of the cooking, run it under a broiler set to high for another 3 minutes (rotating as necessary). Casserole is done when it is browned on top and bubbling on the edges. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.