Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

We spent the first day of 2012 dismantling the holiday decor. I was ready for the tree to be put away since when I sat in 'my recliner,' the tree blocked one third of the TV! As usual we feel like the living room is huge now that the tree is put away! We also watched a lot of football and re-heated some food for dinner. No cooking.

Our first real cooking of the new year happened on Monday when we made Shepherd's Pie. We made it last year and it was really, really tasty, so we had high expectations. We ended up disappointed.
It looked OK when we put it on the table. Maybe not quite as brown on top as last time. The 'problems' started when we served it.
The mashed potato topping was runny, like applesauce. As someone who doesn't really like but rather tolerates mashed potatoes, this was very disappointing.
It also seemed a lot wetter than last time. More liquid seemed to ooze out when we started scooping it out. When I look at the photos from before, I don't think it was wetter this time, but it's definitely a lighter/less rich looking 'gravy.'
So what went wrong? Last time, we followed Anne Burrell's Shepherd's Pie recipe. This time we decided to try the recipe in Cover & Bake from Cook's Illustrated. So far everything we've tried from that cookbook has been amazing - until now. 

Last time we used lamb shoulder/leg that SP trimmed and chopped into lamb cubes. This time, he couldn't find reasonably priced and appropriate lamb (what he found was $24) so we substituted ground lamb ('only' $15 for 1.5 lbs) since the recipe said that the ground lamb could be substituted.

Not a good decision. Maybe from a budget point of view, but not from a taste point of view. The ground lamb is much less flavorful. The ground lamb may as well be ground beef because I just do not really taste the lamb. It's a very weak lamb flavor.

Anne's recipe called for 2 lbs boneless lamb while Cover & Bake called for 3 lbs with bones/fat, trimmed down to about 1.5 lbs (or 1.5 lbs ground lamb). The 1.5 lbs was enough lamb if you used ground lamb, but if we were to use lamb shoulder/leg, I'd definitely want the extra half pound.

Anne's recipe may be more flavorful because she used a full cup of red wine instead of just 1/4 cup. She also used 1/4 cup tomato paste instead of just 1 tbsp. When I look at the photos from the last time, the 'gravy' is much darker and richer tasting, and we remember it being much more flavorful.

I think her mashed potatoes recipe also called for much less butter then the Cover & Bake recipe, which may explain the runniness. I never make mashed potatoes (since I don't really like them) so I have no idea what an ideal amount of milk/butter would be. When I looked at the Cover & Bake recipe, it didn't occur to me to question it. Plus, her mashed potatoes used heavy cream instead of whole milk, so of course they had a richer flavor.

Between the runny mashed potatoes and lack of flavor, we will be sticking with Anne's recipe and using lamb chunks, not ground lamb. We'll have to keep an eye out for sales on lamb. Fortunately, this will feed us both for 3 dinners, so six meals from it, so I don't mind paying for the lamb, but $24 seemed a bit much.

No comments:

Post a Comment