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Archive for December, 2010

I really love my meat CSA, but one challenge it presents is finding new things to do with all the ground meat.  We get five pounds a month, usually 3 pounds of beef and 2 of something else.  There are only so many burgers and chili that I can possibly eat.  When I picked up my December shipment last week and tried to cram it all in my freezer full of meat, frozen cooking projects, and limoncello, I realized I was really far behind.  So I did an inventory and discovered I had about twelve pounds of ground meat in there, including seven of beef.  Oof.  Time to start using it.

Back in April, I made a Shepherd’s Pie with Spring Vegetables.  It was really good, and I made it a lot over the summer, often adding sweet summer corn into the vegetable mix.  I figured just because peas and carrots were no longer in season, there had to be a way to still make this.  So, I ventured off to the farmers’ market last weekend and basically bought one of everything, chopped it up, and threw it in my Shepherd’s Pie with Winter Vegetables.  And it was to die for.  It might even be better than the spring one, because while fresh peas are pretty delicious, nothing beats mashed sweet potato.

This is a pretty flexible recipe.  Nothing technical about it.  Everything in this is local – the meat is from Marin Sun Farms, the produce from the farmers market, dairy from Clover Stornetta, and the dollop of honey is from some dude in Oakland, who apparently sells his honey at my grocery store.  Who knew?

Shepherd’s Pie with Winter Vegetables

Ingredients
2 pounds ground meat (I used beef)
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 cups diced root vegetables (I used a mix of carrots, parsnip, celery root, and turnip)
lots of mashed sweet potato (I baked about 5 big ones)
2 cups of diced Brussel sprouts
a few tablespoons minced woody herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage.

Directions
Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft.  Mash them up with a good pat of butter, salt and pepper, a splash of cream, and a good dollop of honey.  The honey really made these things, especially since the vegetables had some bitterness in them.

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a big saute pan, heat up some butter or oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Slowly saute until they turn golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Add the root vegetables and saute those.  You may need to add a splash of water to deglaze the pan if it starts to look like it’s going to burn.  When the vegetables start to soften up a bit, you add the meat.  If your pan is not big enough (mine wasn’t), just dump them out and add the meat.  Brown it, add the herbs, then add the Brussel sprouts.  Stir together and add to the root vegetables.

In a deep baking dish, add the meat and vegetables and spread it out.  Then start adding the mashed sweet potatoes on top and spread those out.

Stick it in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes.  If you want your potatoes brown and carmelized on top (who doesn’t?), finish it off in the broiler for a few minutes.  Cut up and serve.

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I’m alive and I’m back.  I have had a really busy few weeks and just haven’t had time to post anything.  But, I signed up to do the Dark Days challenge again this year, which should keep me on a more regular posting schedule.

The Dark Days Challenge is hosted by (not so) Urban Hennery, and is a winter-long challenge where participants commit to cooking one meal each week comprised of local, organic, and ethically sound food.  I did it last year and had a lot of fun discovering new ingredients, as well as local resources, like my Marin Sun Farms meat CSA and the super delicious Stonehouse blood orange infused olive oil.  All the meals I made last year can be found here.

And this begins my second year.  As my inaugural entry, I made a pumpkin chestnut soup.  Technically, a kabocha squash chestnut soup, I guess since that’s the gourd I had in the house.  And oh em gee, it might be the best soup I have ever made in my life.  It was nutty in the way that a peanut based soup is, but earthier than that.  And kabocha squash (aka my new favorite winter vegetable) is also a pretty nutty tasting vegetable, so it worked really well with the chestnuts.

I will say that the chestnuts were a pain in the neck to shell.  Usually, once I find out I like a soup recipe, I make a triple or quadruple batch of it and freeze it by the quart.  But, the idea of shelling three or four times as many chestnuts makes me want to cry.  So, I won’t tell anyone if you buy the jars of shelled or pureed chestnuts.

I found the recipe on Sunshine’s Kitchen, discovered by browsing Food Gawker, and it is an adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe.  The produce all comes from my local farmers’ market, the chicken stock was homemade from a Marin Sun Farms chicken, and the cream comes from Clover Stornetta.

Pumpkin and Chestnut Cream Soup
Recipe by Martha Stewart, as adapted by Sunshine’s Kitchen

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 small onion, minced
1 large carrot, diced
3 small potatoes, diced
About 1.5-2 pounds of pumpkin, cubed (or kabocha squash)
About 1/2 pound of chestnut purée, or the same amount of cooked and peeled chestnuts
4 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
a good splash  cup of cream
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Directions

Heat butter in a large pot and add onions.  Saute until golden brown.  add carrots, potatoes, and squash and saute for a few minutes.  Add thechestnuts, and water or broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully transfer to a blender to puree.   Add back to pot.  Gently whisk in cream or milk, and add a bit more water if the soup is too thick.  Add salt and pepper to season and serve.

I served mine up with a cold glass of Lagunitas Copper Ale – perfect match. 

 

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