I like to eat. I also really like to cook. It’s been a while since I focused on the latter, though. Time to fix that.Comfort food is the sort of thing that warms not just your belly but your soul. It’s different for everyone, but we all have a few dishes that fit into the category of Comfort Food. A big part of what makes something a comfort food are the memories and emotions we associate with the dish, which truly allows almost anything to qualify. One of my favourite meals that always perks me up and feels like home is a super simple dish Memere makes with linguine and clam sauce.
It’s simple, it’s fast, and Memere constantly teases me about it because I just can’t seem to replicate the pure goodness she so easily creates in mere minutes. I’ve tried numerous times but it doesn’t matter. It’s not the same; even when I do exactly what Memere tells me, it never measures up.
Sometimes, though, a comfort food might not be something you had all that often in your childhood. Maybe it was something made for special occasions because it was so time-consuming or maybe it was seasonal due to freshness and cost. Maybe you just can’t quite put your finger on exactly why it is so comforting, either. No matter why, comfort food is exactly that: comforting. When somebody makes a request for an item on their list…it’s hard to say no.
When The Huzz made a giant-eyed-request for Shepard’s Pie, I had to plan in advance. To do it right, it’s an intensive thing to make! There’s prep work, cooking before the actual cooking takes place, and then the final baking cycle. I started piecing everything together to make sure I had all the correct ingredients (starchy, not waxy potatoes) since everyone likes theirs a little differently.
I grew up with a vegetarian version so I’m used to having more variety in my vegetable options. The Huzz, however, is a bit of a purist. Onions. Carrots. Peas. Done.
I stuck with The Huzz’s simplistic veggie approach in seasoning, too. This had garlic powder mixed into the potatoes but just salt and pepper everywhere else. The onions were caramelized first, separately from everything else. Then, the meat was pre-cooked and tossed with the onions. I used the natural fats from the meat to start the cooking process for the carrots, not wanting to risk them not softening enough or getting soggy in the oven.
Nobody likes soggy carrots.
I strained the veggies out of the pan before using the very last of the cooking liquid to make a thin gravy with white wine. This is the only other place I added extra seasoning; I used roasted paprika and some marjoram. I wanted something to act as a thickener and also a sort of flavour binder over the whole dish. It couldn’t just be layers of things; it needed a sense of cohesion.
Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of it after that first slice or two. It retained its shape really well, though, and the potato crust had just the right amount of crunch while still being smooth and soft underneath. When it was fresh from the oven, I grated some Parmesan cheese over the top and some additional black pepper. It then settled for about fifteen minutes before returning to the oven simply for warmth. Admittedly, I don’t know if the settling before eating truly did anything for the texture, flavour, or consistency. I just know that it ended up being ready about thirty minutes sooner than I needed it so I let it settle out of the oven while the oven cooled a bit so it wouldn’t cook further as it stayed warm.
The Huzz said it was really good and Bam-Bam ate way more of it than I’d thought possible. I don’t know where that little eating machine puts it all but it made me happy to see his silly face chowing down. Personally, I’m just impressed I remembered to rotate it about midway through the cooking process and managed to not burn anything.
The day I made this, I kept sending The Huzz photos of the cooking process. It may have been a bit evil. I’m totally okay with that; it’s those small victories which make it worth while.
[All imagery links back to the source where I found it through Google Image Search with the exception of my own images.]
[Feature Image: My pie brought all the boys … to the table.]