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.