Potatoes, peas and carrots are staples in my larder, but ground beef is not. My last few trips to the store, I completely forgot to purchase it. Needing to put supper on the table and unwilling to venture to the store on a bitter cold February night, I decided to use the ground bison meat my husband had purchased intending to make Ta Tonka burgers, one of my meat-crazed daughter's favorite meals (see earlier post). The result was individual pies, each in its own cozy ramekin. My children were delighted to push their spoons into the gooey melted Cheddar, around the vegetable matter underneath, straight to the savory meat at the bottom. Hubby was pleased, too, and this dish will certainly go into the mealtime rotation.
We now have a nomenclature issue. If Shepherd's Pie implies that you used lamb, and Cottage Pie refers to the beef version, what should you call this dish when made with ground bison meat? Why, Prairie Pie, of course. While part of me wonders if "prairie pie" is a cowboy euphemism for (ahem) manure, a quick google reveals that it's unlikely. Let's hope.
Okay, so here's the recipe for a tasty, filling wintertime meal,
4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, finely chopped
5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
1 cup frozen green peas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground bison (or ground beef, if you simply must be a rule breaker)
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ketchup2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1. Face the cooktop and locate three pots: two saucepans filled with salted water and set to boil. The third pan should be a skillet in which to brown the ground bison. Now is a good time to assemble the baking and serving dish/dishes and place them on a baking sheet. I used two small ramekins for the kidly portions and two gratin dishes for the adult meals. You could use all ramekins, all gratins, or one single casserole dish. My recipe will generously feed two adults and two children with no leftovers. You will need to expand the recipe by 1/2 or more if you need to feed teenage werewolves, fieldhands or stevedores.
2. Boil the peeled, cubed potatoes in one pot of salted water until done, about 10 to 15 minutes. Boiled the peeled, diced carrots in the second pot of salted water about 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp-tender.
3. Heat oil in the skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add the ground bison and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Bison is lean, and there will not be excess fat to pour off. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and onion mixture and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in ketchup, soy sauce and beef broth. Pepper is a nice addition at this point, and salt is a possibility. Taste before, during and after the seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Drain the carrots and set aside. Drain the potatoes, add the butter and milk, salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. I'm a fan of rustic potatoes, with a few small chunks in the mash, but feel free to mash to your desired level of consistency.
5. When all the ingredients are ready, but before the assembly, preheat the oven to 350. To assemble: for a ramekin, put about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture in the bottom. Top with a tablespoon or so of diced carrots and a tablespoon of frozen green peas. Cover this with a goodly smear of mashed potatoes, covering the meat and vegetables completely. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. For the other dishes, you really should be able to figure it out on your own.
6. Place the individual dishes or the single casserole, on a baking sheet and into the 350 oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheesy is ooey-gooey and the potatoes are a light golden brown.
You can make this dish ahead of time, in fact, it's perfect for mommies who may have an hour in the morning to cook the ingredients and an hour in the afternoon to assemble the dishes and bake.