Hello! I am back again with a quick recipe that I sort of threw together last night from left-overs!
This past weekend I had a fun time cooking for a group of about thirty teenagers and adults at a local state park, where they were doing their annual retreat in preparation for a medieval fair that they perform in every year. I have done this for a number of years now, and am starting to get it down to a science in the preparation and performance of the meals.
The menu hasn’t really changed all that much over the years, but I am always looking for something different to add to my retinue of things I can do for larger groups like this that won’t kill me.
For the two lunches I prepare, it is usually something simple like sandwiches and some chips, no big deal… they just need something to tide them over on the first day until the big meal in the evening, and on the following day (Sunday) to give them something before they head home. I added hot dogs this year as something different and new, which seemed to go over quite well.
For breakfast on Sunday I keep it somewhat sane… bacon and scrambled eggs, biscuits and pork gravy, oatmeal, hot chocolate, and orange juice. It amazes me how much bacon these people go through!
The big meal though is the evening meal on Saturday. For that I pull out all kinds of stops, and we get the following:
- Beef stew
- Vegetarian Chili
- Pigs in a blanket
- Fruit salad
- Cupcakes (dessert)
- Two apple pies (also dessert, and a recipe that I will spotlight at some later time because it turned out so well and was so easy!)
They love this lineup of food, and I find that the vegetarian chili is as popular if not more so than the beef stew! It is the kind of food that they need after a hard day of practicing their fights for the battle chess scenes that they will be performing at the fair.
So, this was all a long-winded story that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the topic of this article… but it does. You see… I made too much beef stew this time around, and took home a fairly large tupperware container full of the stuff.
Looking at it at home, I realized that I really did not want to eat that much beef stew. I would be sick of it in no time flat. What could I do with it, though? I supposed I could have frozen it for later, but that takes up room in the freezer. So the only answer was to re-purpose it in the form of leftovers. Since it basically consists of beef chunks, potatoes, and various other veggies that stew well, it seemed to me that I had the basis of a shepherd’s pie. To the Internet!
Reading up on shepherd’s pie, since I had never actually made one before, I came to find that shepherd’s pie is actually a newer term for a cottage pie, and up until recently the two terms were basically synonymous with each other. Only in the last couple of decades have the two split slightly in meaning, with a shepherd’s pie being made with lamb, while the cottage pie is made with beef.
With that, I present to you my version of a cottage pie!
- Left-over beef stew
- Grated cheese
- Heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- Boil potatoes until soft
- Adding small amounts of cream to the potatoes, mash the potatoes using a masher (or a fork, or a mallet… whatever comes in handy) until you have nice mashed potatoes
- Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste
- In a casserole dish, layer the bottom of the dish with strained beef stew. You want as little moisture from the stew to come through.
- On top of the layer of beef stew, layer on the mashed potatoes
- Top with a layer of grated cheese
- Bake in oven for about 20 minutes. Use the broiler to brown the top if needed.
The first thing I did was start my potatoes for the mashed potatoes. I like to use red potatoes for my mashed potatoes and leave the skins on them when I cook them up, since I hold to the belief that there are tons of good vitamins and stuff in the skins. I don’t know if that is true, but beyond that I feel it gives the finished product a nice variable texture and some color, so I will continue to do it.
Looking at my left-over beef stew, I realized that it was entirely too wet to serve my purposes, so I took a strainer and got rid of a goodly amount of the moisture. Unless your beef stew has a very thick gravy, I highly recommend this step!
I then took the strained beef stew and created a nice layer of the stew across the bottom of a casserole dish. I knew that I had not really put enough salt into the stew originally (at least to my tastes) because of the group that I was cooking for, so I added salt at this point to the top of the stew.
Once the potatoes were completed, I started to layer them on top of the stew in the dish. For this casserole dish size I used six or seven potatoes. Unfortunately I didn’t measure anything when I was creating this thing, so it was all by approximation. A nice layer of grated cheese that I also had leftover from the weekend went on top.
With the potato layer added, into the oven at 400F it went for about 20 minutes. When I checked it at that point, the cheese had melted but had not browned at all, so I turned on the broiler for about 5 minutes and that did the trick.
Pulled the dish out to cool, and I was done!