Like I said yesterday, we hosted our neighbors for a midweek dinner party.
The kids went to bed and the grown-ups stayed awake to talk of grown-up things. James and I didn’t realize how much we needed some grown-up time with other adults not talking about budgets, schedules or transportation.
I served this meaty, potatoey casserole, with a side of peas, dinner rolls and roasted cauliflower. Damn, I love me some roasted cauliflower.
Pro-tip! You know how roasted cauliflower tastes delicious but makes your house smell like toots?
And you probably don’t want your guests walking into your home and making, um, assumptions.
I prepare the cauliflower by cutting, washing and tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper ahead of time. Then I put it in a preheated 450° oven for 20 minutes when the guests arrive.
Guests won’t notice the smell because it’s gradually getting worse around them.
Pull the pan out when everyone sits down.
Hooray! Roasted cauliflower for everyone!
We were able to tuck this dinner party into the week because we made the Shepard’s Pie in advance. It was a huge pick-me-up, worth all the dishes sitting in the sink right now.
Be ye warned.
This recipe uses a lot of dishes.
But it also makes enough for two, one to freeze and one to serve.
Helen Jane’s Pea-free Shepard’s Pie Recipe
This super-meaty Shepard’s Pie is pure comfort food.
(And makes dang-a-rang great leftovers.)
10 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion
3 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
Another 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1.5 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound sausage
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the scrubbed potatoes to a large soup pot. Cover with cool water. Heat the pot to boiling and let rumble away for roughly 30 minutes. When potatoes are easily poke-able with a skewer or knife tip, remove from water and cool.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop the carrots, onion, celery and garlic. You can mix the carrots, onion and celery in a bowl, but keep the garlic separate.
In a large dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage and ground beef. Add garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and salt and pepper to the browned sausage and ground beef mixture and stir through.
Heat another tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the hot oil. Add salt and pepper and thyme. Sauté for at least 5 minutes, or until the carrots start to soften and the onions become translucent.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Potatoes cool enough?
Now remove the peels from the potatoes and set the naked spuds aside. Mash or rice the potatoes with the stick of butter. Gently stir through the cream and salt.
Now you have three pans.
One has meat.
One has veggies.
One has mashed potatoes.
Add 1/2 of the meat mixture to the bottom of 1 9×13-inch rectangular casserole dish.
Add 1/2 of the meat mixture to the bottom of another 9×13 inch rectangular casserole dish.
(I use one deep casserole dish that’s bigger than 9×13 and a smaller vintage one, so it’s not exact.)
Spread veggie mixture on top of the meat mixture.
Spread potato mixture on top of the veggies, carefully.
If you like, you can scrape your fork across the top to give the top of your casserolepie even more browny crunchiness.
Wrap aluminum foil around one of the casseroles and put in the freezer, put the other casserole in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, depending on how brown you like the top of your pie. Let it rest for 10 minutes before your guests devour it. We made one for six people and there was only enough left for one measly mini-lunch.
Serve with peas on the side*, so your guests may choose to add them to their forkfulls.
I mixed a little honey and butter into my peas, and served them to the kids, saying, “These are peas Winnie the Pooh would eat! They’re Pooh Peas.” And I’m not sure we’ve yet stopped laughing.
Nope, still laughing.