RECIPES: EASY, CHEESY MASHED POTATO TOPPED SHEPHERD'S PIE

Shepherd's Pie is a great, inexpensive recipe when you need something comforting to feed a big crowd and it is absolutely perfect for St. Patrick's Day celebrations! Ground meat, potatoes, onions.... the ingredients are simple, the prep time is minimal and you can bake it off right before guests arrive. With the ground beef and potatoes, your picky eaters will never notice the carrots or peas hiding in the filling. I normally use ground beef for this recipe but made it once with ground lamb and it was fantastic... just not my favorite.

St Patrick's Day Shepherd's Pie topped with mashed potatoes

TRADITONAL SHEPHERD'S PIE with PARMESAN MASHED POTATO TOPPING

Makes 4-6 small ramekins or 1 medium casserole

INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or ground lamb if you prefer- or a combination of both)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced small (about 1 cup)

2 carrots, diced very small

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup frozen English peas

1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves, minced fine

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced fine

For the mashed potato topping:

2-3 large potatoes, peeled and diced small

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided n half

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dice the potatoes. Rinse in cool water. Fill a pot with water. Add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain well. Mash the potatoes while they are hot and allow to cool slightly. Add the milk, salt, and pepper. Using a hand mixer or any method you prefer, whip the potatoes until they are fluffy. Add the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Mix together. Set aside.

In a large skillet or pan, heat the olive oil. Add the ground beef and brown it. Add the onion and carrots. Brown until they are softened, about 3-4 minutes. Drain off excess fat if there is any. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook that for about 1 minute. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits of flavor on the bottom of your pan. Add the thyme and the parsley. Cook until the wine is mostly reduced. Stir in the chicken stock. Cook 3-4 minutes more. The mixture should be quite thick and paste like. If it is not, cook and stir until most of the liquid is cooked off. Check the seasoning- you may need a bit more salt and pepper. At this point. I often put a quick dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne pepper for some faint heat.

Spray your ramekin or casserole dish with non-stick spray or do what I do and brush the ramekin with a little olive oil and then dust it with some of the grated Parmesan cheese. Fill the ramekin 2/3 full with the meat mixture. Top with the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Use a fork to pierce the top so the juice will bubble up through the potatoes. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly hot.

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RECIPE: ONE POT SEAFOOD BOIL

No Labor Day party plan? What could be easier than putting everything in one pot to cook and serve? No labor for this Labor Day party! And it is the absolute easiest way to serve a big crowd. You can even dump the boil onto a table lined with brown paper and let everyone simply dig in.

A good boil starts with the freshest seafood. I think you can put just about any kind of shellfish in your pot---- so go to the market and get what is the freshest but in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a boil is traditionally made with shrimp and clams. Or crab. And here in that part of the South- Old Bay Seasoning is a must. You can usually find it at the grocery or ask the guy at the fish counter. You can cook your boil on the stove, on the grill or over a fire.

ONE POT LOWCOUNTRY SEAFOOD BOIL

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds whole fresh shrimp (in the shell)

3 dozen small clams in shell-optional (make sure the shells are closed when you purchase!)

3 pounds smoked sausage

3 pounds small red potatoes, skin on-- cut them in half if they are large

3 large white onions, cut in quarters

5 pounds of fresh corn-on-the-cob cut into 4 inch pieces

1/2 stick butter

2 lemons, sliced

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

Old Bay seasoning to taste (add a little at a time)

1 bottle of your favorite beer (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Put the potatoes and onion along with all of the seasonings (garlic, butter, lemon, too)  in a huge stockpot with enough water to cover and add  the beer. Put the lid on and simmer until almost done. Add corn and sausage and simmer until the corn is almost done. Add the shrimp and clams. Cook until the clams just open and  the shrimp turns pink. Don't keep cooking once your seafood is done--- it will get tough. I will often drain and transfer the boil to a large cooler to keep it hot for serving if I have a huge crowd.

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