Courters' Kitchen: Shepherd's Pie with a twist

Courters' Kitchen: Shepherd's Pie with a twist

March 7th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Kelley Courter creates a beef and Guinness pie with Irish cheddar potatoes.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Guinness beer enhances the taste of a classic dish

BARRY SAYS: With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, we wanted to cook up something with an Irish flavor. I think Kelley actually started planning and talking about this around the first week of February.

The rest of us in the household know not to get too excited about anything she suggests too early in the process because often it will change. For example, if she is talking about Thai for dinner in midafternoon, we are just as likely to have Mexican or Italian food. We don't care, though, because it's always good.

While she did stick to her original idea for shepherd's pie, she changed the recipe midway through the cooking process this past weekend. I think that's part of the fun for her.

The result was a delicious plate of potatoes, tender chunks of meat, carrots and mushrooms. What I really liked was that I could taste everything, even the Guinness, which added a tangy body to the gravy.

KELLEY SAYS: Yes, I did start to research this earlier last month. There were many versions of a shepherd's pie or a beef and Guinness pie. I finally decided upon aa recipe. The first thing before I started making the dish was to taste the beer. I must say that I did not like it at all!

BARRY: What? I love Guinness. It's like a meal all by itself.

KELLEY: Anyway, so that was the beginning of how to make this work. I went ahead and began cooking the dish through the first part of the recipe. I would open the pot and taste the sauce, and it wasn't working for me. I could taste the beer.

I let it cook longer and kept thinking it needed something else. I opened the cupboard and saw prunes. Well, they looked kind of similar to the stout beer, so I thought maybe the sweetness of the fruit would help. And it did. The final hours of cooking helped the flavors come together nicely. The richness of the stew with the cheesy potatoes is a wonderful winter comfort food.

As it always is in our household, we have critics I depend on. Our daughter suggested that maybe the potatoes should have been sliced and added to the meat mixture, which could have been topped with a pastry crust. I will take her suggestion the next time I prepare this dish.

Shepherd's Pie

Peanut oil

3 pounds beef chuck, cubed

Flour (enough for dredging beef cubes)

2 onions, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

6 whole allspice

6 bay leaves

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout beer

4 carrots, thick slices

1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup dried pitted prunes

1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Heat oil in skillet on medium heat. Lightly flour beef cubes, then place in skillet and brown on all sides. Do not crowd meat, and add oil as needed until all cubes are browned. Place cubes in slow cooker.

Drain most of the oil from the skillet, and add onions and garlic. Sauté until limp. Add to slow cooker with the next six ingredients. Turn slow cooker to high setting and cook for 2 hours, stirring from time to time. Then add remaining ingredients, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 hours or until beef is tender and liquid has reduced. During the last couple of hours you will need to stir the beef to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This will also help to thicken the sauce.

When potatoes are cooked and prepared (recipe follows), spray 6 small baking dishes with a nonstick coating. Ladle beef mixture to almost full inside each dish. Carefully add potato mixture on top of beef. Sprinkle with additional chives (from potato recipe). Place on baking sheet, and bake at 375 F in the oven for about 15 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown. Remove from oven and enjoy.*

Potatoes

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cooked

4-5 tablespoons Kerrygold Irish butter

1/2 cup or more half-and-half

5 ounces Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, shredded

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Mash potatoes with butter and half-and-half. Add cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.