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If you’re a carb slut like I am you’re going to love today’s recipe. Believe me, it’s worth the splurge.
At Punderson State Park, of all places, I fell in love with a comforting shepherd’s pie topped with buttery mashed potatoes and served in a bread bowl. The glorious, potato-crowned beauty was impossible to resist. The chef had returned the “pie” to the oven to warm up the bread and brown the potatoes before serving. It was delicious.
Punderson’s version appeared to have been made with brioche or another buttery bread. My conscience wouldn’t let me go there. Instead, I used regular frozen bread dough, knocking off a few hundred fat calories but retaining the carb-heavy theme of the original.
For the filling, I made a classic hamburg gravy bumped up red wine, fresh mushrooms and thyme. To gild the lily, I drizzled the mashed potato topping with truffle oil just before serving.
Using frozen bread dough – the kind that comes three loaves to the bag in the supermarket freezer case – is a time-saver, but you can certainly make your own dough if you prefer. If using frozen dough, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and allow for about a 3-hour rise.
Each bread bowl is just 4 to 5 inches in diameter, making it a tidy (but hearty) one-dish meal. I envision all kinds of occasions appropriate for this elevated comfort food – game nights with friends, football-watching parties or any apres-snow sporting event. All three elements of the dish – bread bowls, stew and potatoes – may be made up to a day in advance for quick assembly just before eating.
If you’re worried about the carbs, share one as I did with my buddy, Nancy. One-half was plenty for us, and even Tony ate his in two sittings.
SHEPHERD’S PIES IN BREAD BOWLS
4 small round loaves of white bread, about 5 inches in diameter, purchased or homemade (recipe follows)
Mashed potatoes (see note)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
2 tbsp. oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 tbsp. flour mixed with 1/4 cup water
4 tsp. truffle oil
Prepare the bread bowls and potatoes and set aside.
For the beef filling, place carrots and about 1/4 cup water in large saucepan or chili pot. Cover and steam over medium-high heat until carrots are almost tender. Drain and set carrots aside.
In same pot, saute mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. When edges begin to brown, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil along with the onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Crumble beef into the pan and stir well. Brown, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add red wine, increase heat to medium-high and simmer until wine has evaporated. Stir in water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in flour mixture and simmer, uncovered, until mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
To assemble, place the bread bowls on a baking sheet and ladle in the beef mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees in top third of oven for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are lightly browned. Before serving, drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of truffle oil. Makes 4 hearty servings.
Note: Use 2 1/2 lbs. potatoes and the usual butter, milk, salt and pepper for the potato topping, mashing until fluffy but not runny.
1 1/3 loaves (1-lb. loaves) frozen bread dough
Thaw bread dough according to package directions. Cut the full loaf into thirds, yielding 4 pieces of dough.
Press one piece into a square and fold in thirds, like a letter. Press and fold again, using the opposite sides. Shape into a tight ball, pinching the seams firmly. Place seams down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with remaining three portions of dough, using two baking sheets. Oil the tops of the dough balls and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 3 to 4 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees
Wanted: Curious Cooks
In the cookbook biz they’re called beta testers. They’re the friends, relatives and colleagues who test recipes one last time before a cookbook goes to print.
I’m looking for volunteers to test some incredibly quick and easy dessert recipes for my long-overdue cookbook. (A monkey could have written War and Peace in the time I’ve spent on this project).
I’ve already tested the recipes about 20 times each but I’m still nervous; hence the request. If you’re interested, shoot me an email and I’ll respond with more details before you make a commitment. Use my home email – email@example.com – and put “recipes” in the subject line.
Thank you, thank you.
HELP U COOK
As long as it isn’t carved (or is very recently carved), you can make a pie from your Halloween pumpkin, no matter how large or bulbous. Although experts recommend using small, round pumpkins for pie, any pumpkin will do. The benefits of using little pie pumpkins are that they’re sweeter and less stringy than large ones. But sugar and a food processor can level the playing field.
Cook the pumpkin whole in a giant pot of boiling water or on a cookie tray in the oven. Many cookbooks recommend peeling and cubing the pumpkin before cooking, but trust me, that’s a nightmare. You can reduce baking time if desired by cutting the pumpkin in half and scraping out the strings and seeds before placing it in the oven. Boil or bake (at 375 degrees) until a fork goes into the flesh easily. The time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin. After it has cooled, you can easily peel off the rind and scoop out the strings and seeds if you haven’t already done so.
Cut the pumpkin flesh into chunks and puree in a food processor in batches until very smooth. Pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and drain away enough of the moisture to achieve the proper texture for pies. It should be the consistency of canned pumpkin. Refrigerate and use within a day or two or freeze in 2-cup portions, the amount called for in most pie recipes.
Pumpkin seeds: Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp but don’t wash them. The moisture from the pumpkin – let’s face it, the slime – helps salt stick to the seeds. Toss each cup of seeds with one tablespoon vegetable oil and one teaspoon salt. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for an hour, or until the seeds are dry
From Paul M.:
Does anyone know where to find Canary melon? I was at Sweet Pea Cafe in Fairlawn the other day, and the fresh fruit cup included a yummy melon. When I asked, I was told it is Canary melon, sometimes called yellow honeydew. It has a bright yellow smooth skin with a cream colored flesh. I had never had it before. When I asked where to get it, I was told to try Marc’s. I found some pale yellow-skinned honeydews at Marc’s, and tried it, but it had green flesh like regular honeydew and was a little mushy, although very sweet. I loved both the flavor and the texture of what they had at Sweet Pea.
Dear Paul: Sam’s Club carries the bright-yellow melon you want. Read the tag to make sure you don’t buy a lemon melon, which looks similar.
As usual I bought way too much candy for the door-knockers we get in my neighborhood. The bowl of miniature Milky Ways made me think of a Milky Way cake recipe you ran once. Or am I imagining it? I never made it, but now I have more time (not to mention candy).
Dear Sandra: Your memory is fine. That is not a cake I could forget. The recipe is from the candy bar manufacturer.
MILKY WAY-PECAN CAKE
6 large Milky Way candy bars, cut up
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
Milky Way icing (recipe follows)
Melt candy bars with 1 stick butter over low heat. Stir well and set aside. With a mixer, cream sugar and remaining 1 stick butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in nuts and melted candy. Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes in the Bundt pan or 55 minutes in the oblong pan, or until cake tests done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from Bundt pan. Spread icing over cake.
MILKY WAY ICING
2 cups packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. cream
2 large Milky Way candy bars, cut up
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp. butter
Stir together sugar and cream in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in candy bars. When melted, beat in vanilla and butter. Spread over cake.
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ABOUT JANE SNOW
Jane Snow is the former food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide. She has won two James Beard Awards for food writing and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Tony, a sushi chef and owner of Sushi Katsu, an Akron sushi bar.