Monday, November 7, 2011

Super Veggie(ish) Shepherd's Pie

Janet here:

I just want to say for the record that Thomas Edison is a god and that I will never take electricity for granted ever again. While I only had to live without power for 36 hours (thanks to the freak snowstorm that dumped 18 inches of ridiculously wet snow on Connecticut and broke just about every tree, landing most of them on power lines) before high-tailing it to my job in New York (with power! heat! running water! flushable toilets!), Peter stuck it out in Connecticut until Thursday (he is also a god-like) before joining me. When he left the state, there were still hundreds of thousands of people without power. Our power finally came back on Friday night after a week, but as I write this, 40 percent of the people in our town still don't have power, and statewide about 125,000 people are still powerless.

It's a long way of saying not a whole lot of cooking was going on at East Coast Casa Reynolds last weekend. I brought a cooler of whatever food I could grab on my way to work Monday AM since our freezer at that point was beginning to drip and it was clear Connecticut was not going to have power for at least a week. (I hate it when my most dire predictions are proved true.) I figured I'd do something with them sometime this week.

Which I did on Thursday when Peter was en route. Clearly some serious comfort food was in order, and what better place to start than with mashed potatoes. I mean, really, does anything matter after that?

I consider shepherd's pie an excuse to serve mashed potatoes as the main course of a meal. While it's typically made with meat (and I made a ground turkey version of this for years when our children were young and without adventurous tastebuds), I've gone back to my real vegetarian roots now that our household is sans children and haven't cooked chicken in ages. This shepherd's pie is a great vegetarian version that allows for a lot of flexibility and is a great way to use up veggies you've got hanging around or perhaps in quantities that aren't enough for a meal or side on their own but mixed together help to create wonderfulness.

It's also a chance to experiment with mashed potatoes: I've added everything from scallions to horseradish to gruyere to leeks and/or garlic to mashed potatoes, to name just a very few. This particular version included parmesan cheese, some half-and-half and yes some bacon my NY roomie had cooked up for something else. Regular readers know I'm weak for bacon and as I said earlier, this was a week for comfort food.

On to the recipe!

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Serves a small army

vegetables cut up into bite sized pieces: I used broccoli, cauliflower, an onion, and 1 zucchini
16 ounces diced tomatoes: we also had some roasted tomatoes leftover from another recipe so I tossed that in as well
spices: I used oregano, a little basil, some chili powder, salt and pepper, but again this is a chance to season it as you wish
6 potatoes, washed and cut up into pieces
about 1/2 cup half-and-half OR about the same amount of broth (which is what I normally use as a lower fat version)
1 stick of butter
mashed potato fixin's such as various grated cheeses, chives, onion bits, etc in the amount you like

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put some water in a large pot and cook the potatoes until just done. When done, strain, add the butter, liquid of choice and mash. Then add seasonings and mash a bit more. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, cut up the vegetables. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and garlic if using. Saute for a few minutes. Then add the veggies, starting with the ones that need a bit longer to cook first. I put in the broccoli and cauliflower first this time and then added the zucchini at the end because I don't like it mushy. After the veggies are semi-cooked take off the heat.

Place the veggies in a large pan or casserole dish. Schmear the mashed potatoes on top. Place in the oven (maybe add a little grated cheese on top for good measure) and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until bubbling and a little brown on top.

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