Saturday, December 06, 2008
Not Paté Chinois
Comfort food . . . I’d like to shoot the progenitor of that term. Some savvy marketer, no doubt. But what it implies is that French Fries, for example, are uncomfort, but that macaroni and cheese is comfort. What do they mean? Foods that Mother made us? My mother was a lousy cook. There was nothing comforting in her food, love her though I do.
Could they have meant “simple”? As in, not foie gras or feuiletté de ris de veau au sapins crû? Doh. We get it. Anyway, I hate that term, so I won’t tell you this recipe is comfort food. It’s just goddamn food.
But Brigitte commented that it was Paté Chinois (before I made it). It is most definitely not that Québecois abomination, I can assure you. French Canadian food is usually some bizarre hybrid of fur trappers’ roadkill and some odd food idea from Ancient France, but it sure don’t have a lot to recommend it. Poutine? Yecchh.
So, this is Shepherd’s Pie, people, a dish with a very old provenance, and it sure doesn’t come from China. Plus, I made sure I put my goddamn stamp on it — after all, I’ve made it about a thousand times and I just keep improving it.
1 1/2 lbs. stewing beef, ground in grinder or by the butcher
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
30-40 small pearl onions, peeled
5 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup demiglace sauce or substitute Knorr demiglace sauce powder
1 can corn niblets
Salt and pepper to taste
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/2 cup of crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons compound herb butter or butter/parsley/thyme/rosemary mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté pearl onions in some olive oil on medium until browned and slightly soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside; sauté shallots until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté a further two minutes. Remove shallot-garlic mixture and place with pearl onions.
Grind beef, or if already ground, stir in the garlic, worcestershire sauce and sun-dried tomatoes, combining thoroughly. Heat more olive oil in the pan and sauté the ground beef mixture until it begins to lose its pinkness. Add the wine, crème fraîche and chicken broth and stir well. Cook on medium heat until the liquids have reduced by half. Add the demiglace or about 4 tablespoons demiglace powder and cook until slightly thickened, about ten minutes, stirring constantly. Add shallot/onion mixture and combine well. Add corn niblets and about 1/4 cup corn juice from the can (for the sweetness). Add chopped fresh parsley and salt and pepper. Taste often during the cooking; a bland and/or salty filling will not make a good pie.
Place filling in a large rectangular Pyrex baking dish. Pat down into an even layer. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to cool down to a cool/cold temperature.
Put the cut potatoes into a large pan of slightly salted water. Bring to a boil. Set timer for about 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes test the doneness of the potatoes with a fork. They should be completely soft with no resistance.
Drain in a colander. In a large metal bowl, combine the cheeses, garlic, crème fraîche and herb butter. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes into the bowl. Combine thoroughly, adding salt as necessary. Add pepper.
When the sauce is completely cold, smear the mashed potatoes on top very carefully with a fork so that they form an even layer. Use the tines of the fork to make attractive patterns. Preheat the oven to 450 and place the pie in the oven on the middle rack. Watch it carefully; it should start browning within 20 minutes. If it starts browning too quickly, reduce the heat to 350. If it’s not browning quickly enough, increase heat to 500, but watch carefully. It only takes 60 seconds to burn.
After about 30 minutes, remove from oven and carve into rectangles. Serve with a good Girondin from Bordeaux.