Thursday, November 5, 2009

Santa Fe Shepherd's Pie

Another two-recipes-in-one dish. How about that? I'm starting to realize they are a LOT more work than just one.

I ran in to a bit of a mashed potato crisis with this recipe. First of all, the shepherd's pie recipe calls for 3 cups of freshly mashed potatoes. Putting yourself in my shoes, as in little experience in the kitchen and no recent experience eating shepherd's pie, you too would be wondering how to make mashed potatoes. Truthfully, you're probably laughing, but I really didn't know. Yes, I figured I could just cook some potatoes and smash them up, or as was later suggested to me, buy instant mashed potatoes, but I wanted to "make" mashed potatoes, something a little nicer that would use up the real potatoes at home which is how I ended up with the Kraft version.

After choosing the Kraft recipe and figuring I would only need to buy the parmesan cheese and chicken broth, I had a calculation problem. You see, the mashed potato recipe yields 10 of some unknown measurement, but a) I didn't have cute little red potatoes, just big, ugly, aging regular ones, and b) I had no idea what the quantity correlation would be between 3 cups for Campbell's shepherd's pie and this bloody "10" cited by Kraft. Can't these companies talk to one another? In the end, I made the mashed potato recipe as a half quantity, using only 1lb of my old, ugly potatoes. Unbeknownst to me, this would create another problem down the line.

The only ingredient I had to buy for the Campbell's shepherd's pie recipe was the cilantro. I don't own any and don't feel like growing any so what's a girl to do? I could do what I did the last time my recipe called for cilatro: just chuck in a variety of dried spices already on hand and hope for the best. But I decided it was time to invest in another herb so now I am the proud owner of a tube of cilantro. How did I never use this stuff before? I bought a tube of basil a couple of weeks ago to start my collection and it's great! No chopping, no picking herbs off the floor, no stuffing chopped herbs into a measuring spoon, no throwing out dead herbs that you forgot to water for weeks. Instead, I just squeeze the amount required into the measuring spoon and presto!

I dislike peppers of any kind: red, yellow, orange, green, purple, whatever. If I'm making the recipe, you're not eating peppers, so for this one, I substituted a cup of frozen peas and carrots occupying valuable real estate in the freezer. I also didn't use the low-fat soup because when you buy a flat of the soup at Costco at a very good price, it is what it is and that's what you have on hand. I've no idea whether the meat was uber-low-fat as requested. I simply dug enough out of the freezer and cooked it. I usually buy the extra lean or lean so I think I've still done Campbell's proud.

A word of advice here: after mixing the cooked meat with the spices and veggies, don't absentmindedly lick some of the mixture off your arm. The combination of cilatro and chili powder is really very unpleasant. Oh, and if, like me, you scrape the minced garlic into the pan from the squisher-thing with your fingers, don't forget to wash your hand quickly before you answer the phone, or we will both have a phone that smells like garlic.

All went pretty well until I added the potato slop to the meat mixture. Suddenly, I realized I probably didn't have 3 cups worth of potato, having conveniently neglected to actually measure my yield after finishing the mashed potato recipe. Crap. Well, I could "whip up" another batch of mashed potato, seeing as I still have some potatoes kicking around, or better yet, call up the dinner guest and casually ask if they could buy me some instant mashed potatoes on their way over. I chose the latter. However, when the guest arrived, we poked at the dinner (not yet in the oven) and estimated (semi-incorrectly) that there was already sufficient potato coverage.

I was aiming for 2/3 meat, 1/3 potato topping and fell slightly short on the latter, but overall the food was good. I didn't end up making any further potato, instant or "real", so I guess that's a vote for the carb-phobic side. I also had to request a new package of parmesan cheese from my shopping guest as the one I bought earlier today was green and fuzzy inside when I opened it. Guess where I'm going back to tomorrow? I'm also going to buy a potato masher while I'm at it...

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