SHEPHERD’S PIE

IMG_5731Back when I first started this blog, I did a post for Divine Lemon Bars that was inspired by a poster made in 1911 by James Lee in Chicago, Illinois, which had the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments on it.  At the same estate sale at which I bought the Lord’s Prayer poster, I also bought this James Lee poster with “The Lord Is My Shepherd” printed on it, from Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Yea, though  I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Though preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest  my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever

When I was young, I thought I might want to be a shepherd.  It’s easy, I herd.  Turns out I couldn’t get the staff (cue collective groan).  But I did meet a man once dressed as a shepherd, who told me he was a spy.  I asked him why he was dressed as a shepherd, and he told it me it was because . . . wait for it . . . he was a shepherd spy.

I know what you’re thinking right about now, something like “get the flock out of here.” So without further punnery, I bring you this recipe, inspired by the Lord Is My Shepherd poster, for Shepherd’s Pie, a dish the whole family will enjoy.  I think that because it’s made with ground beef it is technically, according to some sources, a cottage pie — the conventional wisdom being that shepherds are concerned with sheep, and therefore, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.  Other sources say that cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are synonymous terms.  Don’t lose sleep over it.  To prepare the mashed potatoes, I usually add a few garlic cloves to the boiling water, and mash them up right along with the potatoes (a ricer works best for me), and add just enough butter and half and half to make them smooth and creamy (not gummy), then season with salt and pepper.  You, of course, can make them any way you want — even instant mashed potatoes will work fine.

SHEPHERD'S PIE
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Recipe type: Beef, Main Course
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots*
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 beef bouillon cube**
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups seasoned mashed potatoes (from approximately 3 large potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • *Note: Can substitute 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables for corn and peas and carrots
  • **Note: Can substitute ½ cup beef broth for bouillon and water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden. Add beef and saute until lightly browned, breaking up with a spoon as necessary. Stir in frozen vegetables and mushrooms. Dissolve bouillon cube in water, add to corn starch mixture, then stir into beef along with Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Spoon beef mixture into an ungreased 9x13 baking dish (alternatively, can use 4 individual casserole dishes). Spread potatoes evenly over top. Brush lightly with melted butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. If desired, broil for 2-3 minutes until potatoes are very lightly browned.

 IMG_5239Preparing the filling

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 Mashed potatoes go on top

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 Spread them over the filling

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Ready!

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You too, can be a shepherd spy

RETRO DINING: STAR PIZZA

Over the holidays, I took a little break from blogging.  Turns out my plan to count down to Christmas with daily posts was a little ambitious, and I abandoned it on December 14.  I had some fun giveaways planned, but the elves at Etsy and ebay were not exactly busting their asses to get stuff shipped, so those giveaways will have to wait until next year’s countdown.  The Post Office was in on the conspiracy too.  I had to go to mail a package and buy some stamps for our Christmas cards.  You know why they are called “forever” stamps, don’t you?  It’s because that’s how long you will have to wait in line to buy them.  It is also, coincidentally, how long it will be before I go back there.  I saw a little sign posted at one of the employees’ stations that said “Remember, we have competition.”  That sign must have been written when the Pony Express was still in operation.  With a quill.

But it’s a new year, full of promise and hope.  And for my first post of 2015, I say out with new and in with the old — time for a Retro Dining post.

Star Pizza was founded in 1976 by two Chicagoans who relocated to Houston.  There are two locations — one near the Upper Kirby District at 2111 Norfolk, and another, which is the one I frequent, in the Heights at 77 Harvard.

The dining room is homey and bright:

IMG_4426The menu offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, and pasta, but it’s the pizza that keeps ‘em coming.  Although it might not seem earth-shaking now, when Star Pizza opened and began offering hand-tossed pizza with a whole wheat crust option and vegetarian toppings, this was gourmet pizza.  Joe’s Pizza, for example, with sautéed spinach and fresh garlic, was and is still one of my favorites.  I think of the crust as Goldilocks crust — not too thick, not too thin, just right.

The lunchtime pizza and salad buffet is one of the best deals around, and a great way to sample Star Pizza.  For $9.25 you get iced tea and all the salad and pizza you can eat.  If you are one of those folks who likes to eat for sport, this is the buffet for you.  The salad bar is small, but has a nice assortment of fixings (including chopped hard-boiled eggs and real bacon).  Although it often looks like a bunch of 10-year olds just finished rooting through it (looks like the salad bars at every boy scout camp I’ve ever been to), the ingredients are always fresh and regularly replenished.  But the best reason to stop first at the salad bar is the thick, tangy, herby house-made Italian dressing.

IMG_5660There are lots of pizzas (almost too many) to choose from on the buffet, including Joe’s Pizza.  During the height of the lunch hour (at which you can expect a short wait to be seated), the pizzas come out fast and hot:

Be sure to leave room for a bite or two of the dessert pizza, which is like a deconstructed apple strudel, with apples and pecans, a dusting of powdered sugar, and will make you happy you wore your stretch pants to lunch.

The secret to Star Pizza’s longevity is clear — fresh and ample toppings, a great crust, and a solid value.  Despite a proliferation of pizza restaurants, Star Pizza continues to have a loyal customer base.  Including me.

Star Pizza 2 on Urbanspoon