Recipe: cottage pie with beef and carrots
Well wow. Winter arrived this week like a dinner guest who shows up drunk in time for dessert. There was some snow, which I’m grateful for, but we plunged from above freezing to single-digit (that is fahrenheit) temperatures within an hour or two. All hell broke loose as the roads glazed over with black ice. It’s been snowing and below zero at our house for a few days now.
snowy ridges and frigid cold
sushi dinner with my folks before they flew home
My parents made it safely home to Virginia and I think they were relieved to not have to deal with snow and ice. We never got above zero today (Wednesday) at our house, but it should start warming up soon. I’m ready for more snow, I tell ya. It’s time to get the ski pants out. I’ve also been looking for reasons to cook things in the oven now that we have finally entered cold weather season. Can you believe I’ve never made cottage pie before? I wasn’t even sure what it was. But once I read through the recipe, it was clear to me that THIS is my kind of pie – a savory pie with mashie top!
flatiron steaks, white wine, fresh thyme, olive oil, black pepper, onions, dried porcini, salt, celery, carrots, beef broth base, flour, tomato paste
heat the broth and porcini
let the mushrooms steep
chop the porcini (save the liquid)
The dried porcini should be easy to find in most well-stocked grocery stores if you don’t have your own stash from summer foraging. The broth will become infused with the porcini essence – precious thing that it is – so don’t you dare toss that out! It goes into the stew. But you might want to strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any sediment or grit that might have come off the mushrooms. While the mushrooms steep, you can season the steaks and sear them. Flatiron or blade steaks come from the shoulder of the animal – beef chuck. The meat is tougher than your premium cuts, but this cut has great flavor and the beauty of the recipe is that you braise the beef until it is tender. When you dice the beef, be sure to catch any and all juices to add to the stew.
season with salt and pepper
brown in a dutch oven
dice the beef
chopped and diced and strained
Using the same pot in which you browned the beef, sauté the vegetables and add in the flavorings and liquids. While there are vegetables in the recipe, I didn’t feel there were enough for my taste. I guess this happens a lot – that I think the meat to vegetable ratio is too high. I increased the amount of vegetables in the recipe below, but I include what the original amounts were in parentheses just in case you are a caveman and can’t bear the thought of biting into a carrot or celery.
sauté the vegetables and thyme
stir in the tomato paste
pouring in white wine
adding the porcini, beef, and broth
cover and set in the oven to braise
The beef braises for an hour, so that should be plenty of time to ready the potatoes. I used yukon gold potatoes, because those are my favorite, but you can use russet or whatever your favorite mashing potato is. The original recipe dices the potatoes before boiling them. I prefer to boil my potatoes whole (in a pressure cooker, but you can boil them in a regular pot too). As long as they don’t break open during the cooking, they should remain nice and fluffy on the inside. Take care not to overmash or overwork the potatoes because this makes them gluey instead of fluffy. And I doubled the amount of potatoes because… well, mashies!
milk, potatoes, butter, salt, pepper
peel the cooked potatoes
milk (or cream if you are really feeling it)
season with salt and pepper
When the stew and potatoes are done, you can stop at this point and refrigerate the two components if you are making the dish ahead. Pour the stew into a buttered baking dish and then top it off with the potatoes. You can spread an even layer of potatoes on top or you can get fancy pants and pipe the potatoes. Just make sure you have a piping tip that is big enough to accommodate potato lumps or else the mashies are going nowhere.
ladling stew into the dish
topping off with mashed potatoes
try to cover the surface completely
The baking time is 35-45 minutes, but if you made the stew and potatoes the day before and it’s all cold, give it an extra 10 minutes in the oven. The potatoes will brown on the tops a little bit and the part that is in contact with the stew will absorb that savory deliciousness that would be the “gravy” – a combination of beef broth, beef juices, porcini, wine, and aromatics. Also? Your house will smell like heaven. Cottage pie retains its heat quite well and it has been a perfect dinner for these cold, snowy evenings. I’m sure it will be perfect for future cold, snowy evenings, too!
we are ready for winter now
Cottage Pie with Beef and Carrots
modified from Fine Cooking
2 cups (original calls for 1 3/4 cups) low salt beef broth
1/2 oz. dried porcini
2 1/2 lbs. top blade or flatiron steaks (beef chuck), 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsps olive oil
4-5 medium carrots (original calls for 3 carrots), peeled and 1/2-inch dice
4 stalks celery (original calls for 2 stalks), 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions (original calls for 2 small onions), 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbsps tomato paste
3 tbsps all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 lbs. yukon potatoes (original calls for 2 lbs. russet potatoes)
10 tbsps unsalted butter
1 cup milk or cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Make the stew: Set a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350°F. Place the broth and porcini in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and turn the heat off. Steep the mushrooms for 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the broth and chop them up. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve (to remove any sediment from the mushrooms) and reserve the liquid. Pat the steaks dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. You might have to cut the steaks in half (like I did) to fit them in your Dutch oven. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive in a shallow Dutch oven or stew pot over medium-high heat. Sear the steaks 3-4 minutes per side until browned. Sear in batches as they probably can’t (and shouldn’t) all fit in the pan at once. Remove the steaks to a plate (make sure you catch all of the juices as they rest).
Lower the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven or stew pot. Sauté the carrots, celery, onion, thyme, and salt and pepper (to taste) until soft – about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the beef into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Stir the tomato paste into the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, cooking for another minute. Add the wine and let it come to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the porcini, broth, beef, and any beef juices. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and let it braise in the oven for an hour. When the beef comes out of the oven, season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the stew someplace warm or you can refrigerate it at this point if you are making it ahead.
Make the mashed potatoes: Place the potatoes (whole and unpeeled) in a large pot or pressure cooker. Fill the pot with cold water so that it is 2 inches above the tops of the potatoes. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water. If using a conventional pot, bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 10-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender all the way through. If using a pressure cooker, I set my Fagor Duo to high (setting 2) over high heat. When pressure is reached (my yellow button pops up), cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Let the pressure cooker release naturally (just let it decompress on its own). Remove potatoes from the pot when done cooking and peel the skins off. Mash the potatoes with the 10 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the milk or cream a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper. You can refrigerate the potatoes if making ahead.
Assemble the pie: Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish (or any combination of individual pie plates or ramekins, etc.). Pour the stew into the dish. Top with the potatoes, spreading them evenly over the stew. Dot the potatoes with the pieces of butter. Bake for 35-45 minutes (or 45-55 minutes if the ensemble was refrigerated). Serves 6-8.
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