Sunday, October 16, 2016

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

A photo posted by Höķm Guerrerø (@revmcnasty) on

Before we "went vegetarian" one of my wife's favorite dinners was the individual Shepherd's Pie made by Chef Carl Drake.  The other day a conversation with a friend, who is also vegetarian and lamenting the Shepherd's Pie from his childhood, inspired me to try and come up with a solid vegetarian version.  I had two ideas on substitutes for the ground lamb*, the easiest being Bocca crumbles.  The more complex idea was to use a trick I learned from Cook's Illustrated from their Ultimate Vegetarian Chili.  They used a combination of ground walnuts, millet and powdered mushroom to recreate the texture and flavor of ground meat.  Since I didn't have walnuts or dried mushrooms I decided to skip going to the store and use the Bocca crumbles that were in my freezer.  I will make another attempt using the more complex method and post results in the future.

For this I used two 20oz ceramic baking dishes.  I have bought them to make individual Chicken Pot Pies a few years ago and felt they were perfect for this usage.

for the topping:
1 Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper

for the filling:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 cup vegetable stock
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup Bocca soy crumbles
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup frozen corn
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place potato in medium pot with 5 cups cold water.  Add a pinch of salt, bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Drain and transfer to bowl.  Add the butter and cream and mash.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In now empty (and wiped dry) pot heat the oil and flour on medium heat, making a chocolate roux.  Stir constantly so not to burn, adjusting heat accordingly.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook about 8 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme and rosemary and bloom them for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the stock and carrot, making sure to scrape up and tasty fond that may have collected on the bottom of the pot. Bring to boil and simmer for about 7 minutes to slightly thicken.
  5. Add the Bocca crumbles, peas and corn.  Keep the heat around medium to have a slight simmer.  Do not bring to a full boil.
  6. The potatoes should be slightly cooled so whisk in the yolk. 
  7. Add the filling to the two baking dishes.  Top with potato mixture.  Star from the outside and work inward.  You can use a fork to make fun textures and patterns.  The "spikey" parts of the potatoes will brown and crisp up faster than a flat smooth layer..  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the topping is beginning to brown.  
  8. Cool for about 15 minutes before serving. 

* Okay,  personal pet peev and rant time:  Shepherd's Pie is never made with ground beef.  Never.  Any person or restaurant who uses ground beef and calls it Shepherd's Pie is wrong.  They are wrong.  You can inform these misguided souls that if you use beef it is called Cottage Pie.  Also: If someone serves you a pork chop and calls it chicken breast they are wrong too.