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classic casseroles

Classic Casseroles

Spiced Shepherd’s Pie

August 26, 2020

One of my boys loves lamb and this one-dish classic casserole, layering sautéed garden vegetables and gratineed whipped potatoes over the meat, is the perfect comfort dish to showcase ground lamb. We’ve spiced it with cumin, mint, Kashmiri chili powder, smoked paprika, coriander and cinnamon. (Yum!)  The dish works well with ground beef, too.

Versions of shepherd’s pie featuring beef or mutton topped with a potato crust started appearing under the name “cottage pie” in 1791 Britain. By 1854, it became more widely known as shepherd’s pie. The French were making similar “pies” in 1900 under the moniker hachis (for finely chopped) Parmentier (for Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a big promoter of potatoes in France through the 18th century.)

But whatever you choose to call it—this shepherd’s pie is truly delicious! To make the dish’s three layers, you will simmer potatoes and then whip them for the top layer, brown the ground meat (lamb or beef) with garlic, onion and the medley of spices for the bottom layer, and sauté carrot, more onion, celery and tomato paste for the middle layer. I use a pastry bag to pipe the whipped potato over the layered meat and veggies. Then, sprinkled with a little parmesan and paprika, and popped in the oven for a few minutes to brown the crust, the dish is ready to serve.

A little bonus tip: If you don’t have a can of tomato paste in the house, you can make your own tomato paste using sun-dried tomatoes! Just pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with a few tablespoons of water to create a nice paste. I actually prefer the flavor of this “homemade” version over canned. Continue Reading…

Classic Casseroles

Johnny Marzetti Casserole

October 7, 2019

Johnny Marzetti could very well be America’s best loved and longest standing comfort casserole. A mix of ground meat, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, cheese and noodles, the dish has populated community cookbooks nationwide for decades. It’s been called Salmagundi, Hamburger Hotdish, Elbow Goulash—even Irish Monkey (!) But as the story goes, Johnny Marzetti is both the “real” name of this dish, and, the name of one of Columbus, Ohio’s most prominent early businessmen whose brother Joe and sister-in-law Teresa had a restaurant called Marzetti’s. I just wrote a cover story for the food section of the Chicago Tribune on this : ) Please enjoy the story of the men, the myths, and the legendary dish–and  do try my version! Unlike bland, community-cookbook renditions which often include processed cheese food and canned soup in the ingredient list, my version gets its deep, rich flavors from fresh herbs, garlic, a blend of Italian sausage and ground beef, red wine and the real star: oven roasted and caramelized tomatoes and onions—the best possible way to transform these vegetables into flavor-packed morsels of goodness. Continue Reading…