With St. Patricks Day soon approaching I thought I would either make the usual corned beef and cabbage dinner, or maybe a shepherds pie. I recently came across a great deal on a couple of Emile Henry 8-1/2-Inch Oval Au Gratin dishes and decided to put them to use and go the pie route for last night and save the corned beef for next week. I love a good bargain, don’t you? I got to say these ceramic dishes are so easy for cleanup, they are amazing. Made in Burgundy, France the clay is blended with other ingredients for durability and a natural glaze is applied by hand. I mean really, nothing sticks and with a quick soak and scrub its like new again.
So talking about that old standby of corned beef and cabbage that most Americans make and associate with the Irish as a staple St. Patricks Day dinner. It is in actuality not really an Irish national dish at all. Corned Beef was a luxury item back in the 18th and 19th centuries and the “corned” aspect of using salt to preserve meats was an expense not many impoverished Irish farmers could afford. Now it was manufactured and exported to the British and their colonies as a food source, but really the Irish used bacon and cabbage in their version. When Irish immigrants came to the United States corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon. Who knows how it stuck or became what it stands for today , but the two are forever associated.
Anyways, I went off topic – again. Shepherds Pie was a dish my mom used to occasionally make and it brings back fond memories of her. I have had it with lamb, which over the years seems to have become more of a British version and the beef associated with Irish cooking. Both are delicious, but I am going with beef and a red wine sauce to bring it all together.
Now in reality this should be called a Cottage Pie as the traditional Shepherds Pie is associated with lamb with lore having it that shepherds are synonymous with lambs and not cattle. But anywhooooo, let’s get cooking.
First off I browned the ground beef in bacon fat to impart some of that beautiful bacon flavor. I seasoned the meat with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, crushed garlic and chopped onions. I then drained off the excess fat, sprinkled the beef with the flour and added fresh thyme and some red wine and beef stock to deglaze the pan. Using my wooden spoon I scraped up all the bits to make sure to get every bit of flavor packed into this sauce.
Next was added the tomato paste and water. Stir to combine and cook for several more minutes more and add the fresh cut corn and steamed, cut green beans. Feel free to use canned here, but I had both on hand and feel fresh is always better.
Next I divided the meat and vegetable mixture into the Oval Au Gratin dishes I had rubbed with a little olive oil.