New Year’s Day Dream

December 29, 2008


I love the idea of spending New Year’s Day puttering around the kitchen, sipping a mug of coffee or perhaps a mimosa (or, heck, a little pool of Bailey’s in the bottom of a glass; it is a holiday after all). With any luck, you only have a slight champagne headache and the sun is shining, which practically makes you whistle while you work in the kitchen: stirring, tasting, tweaking.


In my version of this little daydream, the food is hearty (resolutions start on the second day of January, according to, well, me) and comforting and long-cooked, requiring you to wear a path all day long from your favorite nook of the couch to the kitchen and back again.



Which is why I’m posting this shepherd’s pie recipe today. It’s a recipe that will satisfy all of the above. Well, the Bailey’s is up to you and my hands are tied as far as the sunshine goes. But it definitely covers the hearty, comforting, long-cooking, kitchen-puttering parts.


We made this on Christmas day, which was actually quite a bit like the scene I’ve painted in the first two paragraphs (minus the champagne headache and plus a whole lot of Doodle Dice; don’t knock the latter until you’ve tried it!).


Around noon, I began browning some beef chuck in a bit of olive oil, letting the heat of the stove create a golden crust around the marbled hunks before removing them from the pot. Next, I sauteed a heap of chopped vegetables in the same Dutch oven. Soon, I returned the chuck to the pan, nestling the browned pieces into the softened vegetables. Into that went the better part of a bottle of red wine, which bubbled away for two hours, making my parents’ house smell incredible.


After the long braise, I shredded the beef (which didn’t take much effort, as the beef had already loosened into practically ribbons), reduced the wine-y liquid, and threw in a couple handfuls of frozen peas. All of this went into a gratin dish (which was our Christmas gift to my mother; and, yes, that means that I was the first one to use it), to be covered with a creamy spread of mashed potatoes leftover from our Christmas Eve dinner.


About a half-hour before dinner, I slid the dish into the oven until the stewy filling began to bubble up around the edges of the mashed potato lid, which had set up and gone golden under the oven’s heat. We all dug in and compliments to the chefs (Ali and Kevin helped too) ensued.  So, there you go. You have three days to stock up on these ingredients and have yourself a merry New Year’s Day. Hop to it!


Wine-Braised Beef Shepherd’s Pie
Adapted from Food & Wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds well-marbled beef chuck, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 medium onions, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1 1/2 cups water
1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
One 1-pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
3/4 cup milk, warmed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 3 minutes per side. Add the carrots and onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables and stir until dissolved. Add the red wine and water and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat, turning the meat once or twice, until very tender, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile,* In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes and celery root with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and celery root. Return them to the saucepan and shake over moderately high heat to dry them out, about 1 minute.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and celery root until creamy. Gradually mash in the milk. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the meat from the casserole and coarsely shred it with 2 forks. Boil the juices in the casserole until nicely thickened, about 8 minutes. Return the shredded meat to the casserole, add the frozen peas and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the stew into a 9-inch square baking dish.** Spread the mashed potatoes over the stew. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the stew is bubbling, the topping is hot and golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

* I used leftover mashed potatoes (about four cups for a doubled recipe) instead.
** I doubled the recipe and used a 3-quart gratin dish.

16 Responses to “New Year’s Day Dream”

  1. Mary Beth Says:

    That could have been our kitchen only substitute Mac & Cheese for the Shepherd’s Pie and Tripoley for the Doodle Dice, which I’m definitely going to have to check out, by the way. Happy New Years!

  2. culinarycory Says:

    New Year’s Day is certainly going to have some good eats and drinks!

  3. Robin Says:

    I love your idea for a good New Year’s Day, exactly what I plan to be doing. 🙂

    This pie looks unbelievably good.

  4. Amanda Says:

    I can’t think of a better way to spend New Years Day. Staying warm inside with a steamy kitchen… I think I might wander out of the house though to see the new Meryl Streep movie. But then I will plop right back down and get cooking…

  5. Whitney Says:

    I will be flying to Orlando on the 1st to meet up with my boyfriend’s family to do Disney (which I have never done as an adult) or I would totally spend the day cooking as well.

    This pie looks mighty tasty!

  6. diane (mom) Says:

    This dish was fabulous and the gift they gave me was a perfect match! It was so great to have you home and the house hasn’t smelled better for so many days in a row.Thanks again! Love,MOM

  7. GS Says:

    I’ve already printed this recipe and added it to my binder! BTW, on Xmas morning I tried Deep Dish Brioche French Toast…turned out great! I had to substitute regular bread because I couldn’t find brioche loaf, nevertheless, it was moist and tasty. I ended up having to make it two days later by request!!

  8. Mary Beth: I am at least as excited about Doodle Dice as I am this recipe, so yes, do check it out! Sounds like a lovely Christmas, by the way.

    culinarycory: It must!

    Robin: I’ll be traveling, otherwise I’d be doing it too.

    Amanda: I want to see that one too. As soon as I get over how much I loved Curious Case (and the fact that so many people seem to disagree with me!).

    Whitney: Have a good trip!

    mom: SO fun! Thanks again for everything.

    CS: I’m so glad the French Toast worked out! And I hope you try this recipe too.

  9. Helen Says:

    Yes! A hearty classic! I made one too recently, although I know it as cottage pie 🙂 I like it even better the next day…

  10. Christina Says:

    I am absolutely making this pie. I’ve always used hamburger before. Thanks!

  11. Ali Says:

    If being honest, I was a bit “skeptical” as I often prefer to arrange my foods in separate compartments vs. one big Shepherd’s pie… However, truth be told I was the 1st to go for seconds. It was SO good!!!

  12. Melissa Says:

    This will be the first time I have been at home to cook on New Year’s Day ever. I plan to spend it puttering around the kitchen, no doubt.

    I have to say that is easily the most attractive Shepherd’s pie I have ever seen. Hands down.

  13. Madeline Says:

    I totally agree, the resolutions start on the 2nd! I love Shepherd’s Pie. My Mother used to make it for us every week. I’ve always made it with ground beef but I like your way much better. This is how I’ll be making mine from now on. Happy New Year!

  14. Helen: We’ll never know how this one was on the second day. It didn’t make it that long!

    Christina: I hope you like this version! Let us know how it goes.

    Ali: I am beaming. And smirking a little, too.

    Melissa: Why thank you! Enjoy your Jan 1 in the kitchen!

    Madeline: Yes, I think ground meat is traditional (lamb, usually), but I think this is worth a shot! Hope you like it!

  15. Shelley Says:

    It’s the first time I saw the patatoes cooked in this way, I love it very much. Many thanks for sharing!

  16. Shelley: I hope you give it a try!

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