Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year, Old Favorite

Hello from the top of 2009!  I don't know about you, but the year ahead is looking pretty good from up here.  

I hope you all had your fill of sugar cookies and sparkling bubbly because its time to get down and dirty.  Vegetables folks.  I did promise you a good, healthy, post-new year's dose and I suspect that starting the year with a recipe for cake would spoil many a fresh resolution.  So we'll ease in.  Say a pile of cheery sweet potatoes for a start?

Now that you have a hint of where we are going, let me take you back a few days.  On the 31st I found myself ringing in 2009 with a hearty, feel-great feast of comfort pub food at a new favorite West Village bar, Wilfie and Nell's.  Teetering on the high wire between 2008 and the new year my mind wandered, thinking about the comforts we bring with us from year to year.  Digging into a steaming Shepherd's pie I smile, seeing I'm actually eating one of those very comforts: the tradition of meat pies dating back to a lost time as long ago as the Middle Ages and there I was scheming how to make it at home for you (okay, for me too.  It was deelicious).

So let's start the new year with an old (old old old) favorite.  I bring you, Sweet Potato and Hennepin Cottage Pie.  All that stands between you and a steaming bowl of good-for-you pie is ground meat, a simple handful of veggies, and a dash of Hennepin, a Belgian beer with a yeasty, slightly gingery flavor.  For our pie we used ground beef, red onion, peas, kabocha squash in place of carrots and of course mashed sweeties for the top crust.

A note on the Kabocha squash: as it turns out, the thick skin of the squash made it a bit rascally to render the way we'd intended so for future pies I'd suggest something with a thinner skin like a butternut or red kuri squash.  Or plain and simple, sweet orange carrots.

A little browning of the meat, sweating of the onions, parboiling of the squash and mashing of the potatoes and you're nearing a pie of perfection.

Comfortable and quick.  One of the best things about this pie (and maybe the key to its longevity) is that it's preparation allows for plenty of time to start your book club, send that letter to your old friend, be nicer to your mom, go to the gym more often...okay, so you should save some resolutions for before dinner. 

Take comfort in the sweet steam rising from your bowl.  And like your new years resolutions, make it your own; with any veggies, beef or lamb, your choice of beer, mashed potatoes sweet or plain (and maybe a little grated cheese...) I think this old favorite rings the right note for a delicious new year.  

A happy new year to you all!

P.S. Don't worry, there will be cookies soon.

Sweet Potato and Hennepin Cottage Pie

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped
2 T butter
1 pound ground beef
1 medium winter squash (ex. butternut or red kuri), peeled, chopped
1/2 c peas (frozen will do just fine)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T sage, very finely chopped
2 T tarragon, very finely chopped
1 t fresh ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 T flour
1 c Hennepin (or any beer that suits your taste...just avoid sweet and fruity)

1.  Boil chopped sweet potatoes till soft enough to mash.  Drain, mash and stir in butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reserve.
2.  Brown the ground beef.  Reserve.
3.  Sautee onions, garlic and spices until onions are slightly sweated.  Reserve.
4.  Par-boil the squash of your choice...let them soften but not to total mush.
5.  In a large bowl, stir together meat, squash, and sauteed onions with spice.  Stir in flour and beer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Pat mixture into a 9x9 in pan (or a pie dish).
7.  Cover with mashed sweet potatoes.
8.  Cook for about 15 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.
9.  If you feel so inclined, remove from oven, grate cheese on sweet potatoes and place back in the oven for enough time to melt and brown cheese on top.

about 6-7 large servings


Daily Spud said...

Comfort food is definietly right where it's at, at this time of year!

cia007girl said...

That's so funny! Olga did something similar recently - a sort of sweet potato sheppard pie! I have some sweet potatoes in my bowl on the counter...perhaps i'll do something more adventurous with them than the regular roasting.