Truffled Shepherd’s Pies

Shepherd’s pie – another one of those quintessential comfort food dishes.

Comfort food is an overused term in the food world. But you won’t hear me complaining. Comfort food has always been around. It’s just that we have a nice little click bait-friendly term for it nowadays. It’s all-encompassing – but I usually see two common threads: comfort food is hot, and it’s carb-packed.

What is the definition of comfort food anyway?

It’s defined as, “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”

Point being – it’s about memories, and less so about the food itself.

I’ve only had Shepherd’s Pie one other time in my life. But the specifics are hazy.

It was somewhere in New York, at one of those British pubs. Probably on a side street off of 5th Avenue. And I probably ordered a Guinness with it – those were my Guinness days. It’s a major food gap in my cooking repertoire at home, so this dish was a long time coming.

Pie

My other major food gap? Duck leg confit. Wow, was I missing out.

D’Artagnan produces package-sealed duck confit that you can pull out of the freezer and put straight under a broiler. I bought them on a whim. And I almost cried while eating it – I’m not being hyperbolic, I was so elated by the revelation of duck fat that I almost cried. It was perfect. Duck fat is like chicken fat, but gamier. I didn’t know duck, stewed in duck fat, could taste so good.

This shepherd’s pie, while not as much a revelation as duck confit, is still that blow-your-mind level comfort food. No fond childhood memories required – it’s just plain good.

Making some of these foods at home, at the right place and time, are reminiscent of childhood home cooking. Browning the ground beef, the smell of boiled potatoes, and sauteeing mirepoix all brought back smells, tastes and sights that trigger those fuzzy memories.

But, we need to make room for the new comfort foods in our lives. For me that’s absolutely and unequivocally, duck confit. Even if it’s package sealed sometimes.

Happy comfort food cooking! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 4 small casseroles.

  • 2 lbs. red bliss potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons black truffle butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
  • 2 carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 large white onion, small diced
  • 1 / 2 lb. mushrooms, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thyme, minced
  • 1 splash red wine vinegar
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned and broken up, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. In the meantime, heat a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the potatoes back to the pot, adding the butter, truffle butter, heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of salt. Beat with a hand mixture until the potato mixture is thickened. Allow the potatoes to cool for 10 minutes. Then crack the egg into the potato mixture, stirring until incorporated. Put the potato mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. To the meat mixture, add the water, bouillon cube, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, bay leaf and thyme. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from the heat, allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, and put the mixture in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. In 4 6 by 4 inch casserole dishes, or gratin dishes, layer the meat mixture, then the potato mixture. With a fork, create small peaks with the potato mixture. This will help parts of the pie brown in the oven. Place the pies on a sheet pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peaks on the potato have browned.
  6. Serve hot.

Thyme & Shallot Rack of Lamb Persillade

I present to you a show-offy dinner that doesn’t take a lot of time, or a lot of technique.

Ina Garten has a killer recipe for rack of lamb persillade. As anyone who has made her recipe before can attest, there’s much to love about the traditional parsley-based approach she uses there. But here, I opted to do a version with shallots and thyme.

I’m normally not a fan of breadcrumbs on meat. They get soggy. Fast. What’s more disappointing than a soggy chicken parmesan? That’s why we went with panko breadcrumbs. Sogginess risk eliminated, and the breadcrumbs’ butter coating gives the crust an even roastier, toastier flavor.

Man, I wish lamb prices would drop. If it were on par with beef, I would eat it just as often. Maybe more. What does lamb offer that beef is missing? The thin layer of fat that runs down the bone. Go ahead and get that nicely seared and rendered in a pan. If you’re like me, you will gnaw on the bone to get every last bit of flavor.

As with many Hankerings dishes, there’s more butter in this recipe than meets the eye.

After pre-cooking the lamb for a few minutes, I coat the entire rack with a thick later of room temperature butter. This helps the coating stick, but I won’t pretend this is the only reason I’m slathering a rack of lamb in butter. That butter seeps into the meat, and the burnt bits you get on the lamb make this the sensical thing to do.

What are your favorite ways to prepare rack of lamb? Hopefully, you find this worthy of your recipe arsenal.

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched (most fat removed from bones)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 6 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 / 2 stick butter, room temperature, salted or unsalted, plus 1 / 4 stick butter, melted
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 425*.
  2. Prepare the panko topping. Combine the thyme, shallot, panko, melted butter, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a bowl, tossing to coat. Set aside.
  3. Put the rack of lamb in a small roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly for 10 minutes.
  4. Spread 1 / 2 stick butter on all surfaces of the lamb. Pat the panko bread crumb topping on top of the meat. Some of the coating will fall off into the pan – this is OK.
  5. Place the rack of lamb back in the oven immediately, cooking for an additional 10 minutes, for rare.
  6. Remove from the oven, allowing the rack to rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting into chops.
  7. Cut the rack into chops using a sharp knife. Serve warm or room temperature.

Filet Mignon with Goat Cheese Whipped Cream

Goat cheese whipped cream sound a little too funky for you? Don’t let the name fool you – it is utterly delicious.

I had my doubts that the texture would mesh well – wrong, it was perfect. And even quicker and easier than making a compote butter. I added salt and pepper, the only other ingredients I could justify. I really wanted the goat cheese flavor to shine through.

whipped_cream

It got me thinking about other savory whipped cream toppings. It’s easy to forget that butter is churned cream – and if I were to keep beating for a couple more minutes, I’d have goat cheese butter. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen in my kitchen.

I thought I’d list some ideas that come to mind for a whipped cream steak topper, or another broiled meat, for the adventurous eater types. My gut is telling me my next whipped cream creation will be a brie version.

An added disclaimer – you’re required to let me know how these taste, in the event you try one. 😊

  • Boursin cheese whipped cream
  • Red wine whipped cream
  • Roasted garlic whipped cream
  • Brie cheese whipped cream
  • Smoked salmon whipped cream
  • Black peppercorn whipped cream
  • Shallot whipped cream
  • Tarragon whipped cream
  • Anchovy whipped cream
  • Truffled whipped cream
  • Cream cheese whipped cream
  • Blue cheese whipped cream
  • Harissa whipped cream
  • Tabasco whipped cream

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  G o a t  C h e e s e  W h i p p e d  C r e a m

  • 4 oz. chevre
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  F i l e t  M i g n o n

  • 2 filet mignon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
  2. Put all the whipped cream ingredients in a bowl, and beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until it reaches whipped cream consistency – about 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. Pat the filets dry, and sprinkle all sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Coat an oven-safe skillet with olive oil, and melt 2 tablespoons of butter on high heat. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then sear the edges of the steak for 1 minute each.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon of butter on the top of each filet, and place the steaks in the oven. Broil for 8 minutes for rare, checking with a meat thermometer until the steaks reach preferred doneness, if desired.
  6. Serve the steaks hot, topped with the goat cheese whipped cream.

Pork Chops with Horseradish Cream Sauce

There’s a restaurant called The Pig, self-dubbed the Nose to Tail restaurant, here in D.C. – and all their menu items feature – you guessed it – pork products.

Garden salad? House-made bacon bits.

Burger? That’s going to be ground pork. Yum. Pork chop? That’s wrapped in bacon for some double pig action.

Order a Bloody Mary? You’re getting a strip of bacon in that.

These are just examples, and the only one I can attest to being true is the bacon Bloody Mary, but you get the point.

I don’t buy or cook pork chops regularly. I actually totally forgot about pork chops.

But during a routine trip to the butcher counter to leer at the meats, my eyes settled on a very thick, bone-in slab of pork. It was love at first sight at the butcher counter.

I love strong, woody herbs and garlic with pork, but I wanted some to add an unexpected, punchy element. Enter horseradish.

Pork chops want to be crunchy and seared so juices lock in, just like steak – so achieving that is priority number one.

The sauce starts with the juices from the pan the chop is broiled in, so you’re losing zero percent of that flavor that seeps out from the meat while roasting.

From start to finish, you’re really only turning on the oven and smashing a couple garlic cloves to pull this dish together. And you’re getting a restaurant presentation with little to no effort. That’s a loveable, go-to recipe in my book.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 thick, bone in pork chops
  • Approximately 20 stems thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • 1 / 3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Pat dry the pork chops. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet, large enough to hold both pork chops. Add the garlic cloves and the stems of thyme.
  4. When the oil is very hot, almost smoking, put the pork chops in the skillet so they are settled amongst the herbs and garlic cloves. Allow to sear on one side for 4 to 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Flip the pork chops, sear for 2 minutes, and place the skillet in the oven.
  5. Bake the pork chops for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness, until the pork chops are cooked through. The meat thermometer should reach *160.
  6. Remove the pork chops and thyme stems from the pan, leaving the garlic. Add the cream, butter, horseradish a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper to the pan. Scrape up the brown bits from the pan while the sauce reduces for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Pour the sauce over the pork chops, and serve hot.

Steak Fingers

So simple. So good.

Do you have steak, flour, neutral oil and buttermilk in your fridge and pantry right now?

I thought so. Go ahead and get that oil ready at frying temp, because you’re having steak fingers for dinner tonight.

Just like your classic Southern fried chicken, you’re looking for those ripply, crispy grooves of fried batter. The thick coating of flour readily adheres to the buttermilk and is going to help with that.

And the dredge is garlic powder heavy. Because it’s going to make these ultra-yummy – something that garlic powder is particularly good at.

I have this thing about marbled steaks. When I go to the butcher counter, I’ll typically gravitate toward the marbly-est one. Even when the bone is in, or the portion is too much for what I need. This usually leaves me with ribeye, skirt steak and T-bone cuts. Here, I walked out with an inches-thick, fatty ribeye.

I let the steak strips marinate in the buttermilk for several hours. It moistened the meat to a degree I didn’t think possible. Something about that slightly acidic dairy does something wonderful to proteins that live in it for a while.

The dipping sauces to go along with these strips? That’s where you do you. I love dipping meat strips of any variety in my favorite barbecue sauce – the most readily available, best tasting barbecue sauce is Stubb’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce. It’s a bit tangier, and the “spicy” moniker actually lives up to its name.

Because I can’t help a good plug – other good dippers might be any one of Hankerings dressings – especially Hankerings Not-So-Secret Ranch Dressing. Or you could go for Hankerings Blue Cheese Dressing. Steak and blue cheese? Classic. Whatever your move, both will be explosively good with these strips.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 1 / 2 lb. ribeye steak
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling as garnish
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • Enough vegetable or canola oil to reach two inches-high in a fry-safe pan

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut the entire ribeye into strips – approximately 1 1 / 2 inches wide and 6 inches long. If you have shorter and longer pieces, it’s all good. Let it marinate in the buttermilk for as long as possible, preferably overnight.
  2. Combine the dredge ingredients – the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a fry-safe pan – enough that the oil rises 2 inches high in the pan. To test the oil readiness, put a pinch of flour in the oil. If it begins to sizzle and brown, the oil is ready to use.
  4. Remove the steak strips from the buttermilk, and dredge them in the flour, pressing the coating into the meat so there is a thick coating. Move the dredged steak strips to a clean plate.
  5. Once the oil is ready, place the steak strips in the oil, being careful not to crow the strips.
  6. Fry the strips for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown.
  7. Remove the strips from the oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt, alongside your favorite dipping sauce.
  8. Serve hot.