Monthly Archives: October 2018

HARVEST COTTAGE PIE: MACRO COOKERY

Carol and her family were in San Diego this weekend, so there was no Sunday family dinner. They had gone to watch the Notre Dame/Navy game. (ND won by a substantial score to remain undefeated.) Carol’s husband is a Notre Dame alum as are his father – and his brothers – and his sister. And they are all devoted sports fans. Carol’s husband goes to South Bend for football whenever he can, and the whole family often comes to LA when Notre Dame is playing nearby, usually against USC. The pilgrimage left us by ourselves, and so I thought Sunday would be a good time to clean out the refrigerator. There was a sweet potato that needed to be used. (It had tiny leaves appearing.) There was a potato that also needed to be used, along with a package of ground beef that I had bought the day before without a clear idea for it. The days have gotten cooler, so something like cottage pie sounded good. Why not top it with sweet potato mash instead of/along with the usual mashed potatoes? Done.

The other thing to while away my time was a new toy. I had bought a Xenvo lens set from Amazon. The lenses clip onto your cell phone to augment the built-in lens. The wide-angle lens does not really do much as my iPhone lens is already wide angle with a large depth of field. The macro, on the other hand, is great. It has only a single focus point, so it is not as versatile as the macro lens on my DSLR, but it is still fun to see what really-close-up images you can make. I am afraid that this post will wind up being a series of macro images of ingredients. Even at that, I hope you enjoy them.

RECIPE

Harvest Cottage Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter* (You will need 8 tablespoons – one stick – in all)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt  and pepper to taste
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter*
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 medium cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler (alternatively grate)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter for topping*

Method

  1. In a small stockpot, cover the sweet potato in salted water and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Drain. Force through a potato ricer or mash. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Add the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside for final assembly.
  2. In a small stockpot, cover the cubed russet potato in salted water and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Drain. Force through a potato ricer or mash. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Then stir in the milk and egg until they are completely incorporated. Add  salt and cayenne pepper to taste. You can substitute black pepper but it will leave black specks in the mash. Set aside for final assembly.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir until they are completely wilted but not browned. Add the ground beef and stir occasionally until the meat is completely browned. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the stock and stir until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the thyme and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Assemble the cottage pie by transferring the meat mixture to a well-greased oven-proof dish large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Layer the mushrooms and carrots on the top of the meat. Then alternate large spoonsful of sweet potato and potato mash on the top. Using a pastry brush, baste the top with melted butter. Bake in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for one hour.
  5. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.

Cook’s note: The carrot slices, although attractive, turned out to be a little hard to eat. Coarsely grated carrot may be better. Actually it may be even better to leave out the carrot as it has sweetness and  flavor that compete with the sweet potato.

 

 

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SHRIMP-STUFFED EGGPLANT WITH SHRIMP CREAM SAUCE

I have dropped out of the blogosphere for a while. This is my first post in a long time. There are all sorts of explanations: I have turned into a couch potato watching the never-ending news while growing evermore discouraged and we have been very busy watching grandchildren. Carol and her husband went to Parents’ Weekend at our eldest granddaughter’s university and their son needed to stay in his high school classes. Then Sarah and Evan went on an extended book tour to publicize their cookbook, “Rich Table”, so we watched their boys in LA and in San Francisco. Then Sarah and Evan were invited to Zürich, Switzerland as food representatives of San Francisco. Somebody’s got to do it, right? More babysitting which, by the way, we enjoy – but – but – we need an extended rest when we’re finished. Even with all of that, I think the main reason for my absenteeism was that I had run out of things to say and things to cook.

I was nudged back into posting by a gentle note of concern from two blogging friends of many years, Dianne and Tom.  (Even though I have never met them, I consider them friends.) That encouraged me to finish an uncompleted post that had been sitting (floating?) somewhere in my computer cloud for months. Here it is.  I have already generated a new idea for my next post, so maybe I’ll get back on track.

By the way, you would enjoy the blogs of my friends. She is an excellent cook with a wry sense of humor, and he is an erudite expert on wines, especially from Italy and also with a keen sense of humor. So use the links to check out what they are eating and drinking these days.

Even though our local farmers market has slowed down as winter approaches, there are still eggplants. They are so beautiful, and there are so many varieties that when I see them I ask myself, “What else can I do with them?” In Louisiana, cooks stuff just about any vegetable you can think of. There are stuffed tomatoes, stuffed artichokes, zucchini, winter squash, mirlitons (chayotes) and, of course, eggplants.

In the Cajun repertoire, there is a typical variety of stuffings: crawfish, crab, oysters, white fish, and probably the most popular, shrimp. Combinations of one or more of the above are also common. Paul Prudhomme, the late, great New Orleans/Creole/Cajun chef was noted for his seafood dishes. Think blackened redfish and pecan-crusted snapper. But he  loved to stuff all sorts of vegetables with the bounty of the water. There is an abundance of such recipes in his first cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (William Morrow and Company, New York, 1984)  I looked at his recipe for seafood-stuffed eggplant with shrimp butter cream sauce (pp 67-68) but it looked way too complicated for my humble skills, so I made a simplified, toned-down version. Not as good as the original, I’m sure, but still pretty tasty.

RECIPE

Shrimp-Stuffed Eggplant with Shrimp Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 medium (2/3 to 3/4 pound each) globe eggplants
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bottle commercial clam juice (8 ounces) divided
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup cream

Method

  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the halved eggplants. Return to the boil and cook until the eggplants are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove the eggplants from the boiling water, drain, and cool on a rack. When the eggplants are cool, use a large spoon or knife to remove the flesh, leaving a ¼-½ inch rim and being careful not to break the eggplant skin.  Set aside the hollowed eggplants and reserve the flesh for the stuffing.
  2. In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cover for about 5 minutes to sweat the onions. Stir in the chopped celery, chopped bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted. Stir occasionally and do not let the mixture burn.
  3. Chop the reserved eggplant flesh and add to the mixture. Season to taste with the thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add half the clam juice (4 ounces) and the bread crumbs. Reserve about half of the shrimp: two each to top the stuffed egg plants and more for the sauce. Chop the remaining shrimp coarsely and stir into the stuffing.
  4. Place the hollowed eggplant halves in a well-greased baking dish.  Divide the stuffing equally among the four eggplant halves. You may have more stuffing than the eggplants will hold. In that case, put the extra stuffing in a well-greased ramekin to be baked with the eggplants. Top each stuffed eggplant with two whole shrimp. Bake in the middle of the oven preheated to 350°F for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the  butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour. Do not let the mixture color. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of clam juice and cream. Stir vigorously until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Add the remaining shrimp and cook 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and have lost their translucency.
  6. Serve the stuffed eggplants immediately, topped with shrimp cream sauce.

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