Tomorrow, April 23, is Shakespeare’s birthday. After almost 500 years people are still remaking his work. Joss Whedon has a version of Much Ado About Nothing coming out this summer with Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. I don’t know Joss; I’m not such a fan of Shakespearian speech in films set in modern times but I like ya so I’ll probably give it a view. My favorite version is this one from Kenneth Branagh.
What to make for one of the greatest writers that ever lived? Since I’m a history geek of course I instantly decided that it should be something he would have recognized. Problem is the food we eat has changed a great deal since his time. Shakespeare lived during an exciting time. The cross cultural food exchange that began with the “finding” of the “New World” was just getting underway. And while turkey was readily accepted, “Tastes like swan, try it!” many other now popular foods did not. I finally decided on shepherd’s pie, which is basically a casserole of mashed potatoes over stew. He’d recognize the dish if not all the ingredients in it. In his day they would have used mashed parsnips or turnips instead of potatoes and of course no tomato sauce or corn. I’m not sure how much garlic they used in England at the time either.
The next thing I decided is that I had to go big. The bard strikes me as someone who liked the good life and liked to live large. He might not have been able to live it very often, writers then and now struggle to make a living, but something over the top seemed appropriate. I added every think I like in mashed potatoes.
Some people get all picky about shepherd’s pie and claim it’s not the real thing if it’s not made with lamb. I say phooey. Shepherd’s pie is a peasant dish and I’m pretty sure they made it out of whatever they could catch to put in the pot. Besides, my farmer was out of ground lamb. Make it out of whatever kind of red meat you can catch. I would stay away from poultry as it wouldn’t have the right texture for the stew.
Be careful of it under the broiler, it browns fast. This may have been the first time I’ve used the broiler in this oven and I set the broiler on high. Luckily the topping caramelizes before it actually burns so if it’s a bit “browner” than you would like it might still be okay. The recipe doesn’t call for parsley but that’s because I forgot to add it. I had just spread the mashed potatoes over the stew when I realized the parsley was still sitting on the counter. I would totally add it next time. If you use fresh parsley add it when you take the stew off the heat and before the mashed potatoes. You could also add it to the potatoes; chives would be another good addition to them. Continue reading →
Kitchen mistakes happen. As long as they aren’t of the OMG the stove’s on fire variety, it’s not usually a big thing, it can even be a good thing. This pie was a mistake, but it turned out to be of the DANG GOOD variety. In fact, it’s the best chocolate cream I’ve ever had.
My pie making skills aren’t what they used to be, probably because I haven’t really baked a pie in…years? I can’t actually remember the last time I made a pie completely from scratch, but I had found a recipe I wanted to experiment with from Death Warmed Over by Lisa Rogak (quirky book, hopefully you’ll hear more it about soon). Since the cream filling was from scratch I somehow got it into my head that This Time I would make the crust as well. Sometimes I can’t talk myself out of these things. That voice says, “Good sense, be gone! You can do this!” and so I started making the crust. About the time I started trying to piece the pieces of crust together so that I could somehow end up with a pie crust without holes I was really questioning that voice. It told me nobody was going to see the crust anyway and that most people I know don’t even eat it. I agreed and just made sure there were no holes and made a mental note to add more liquid to the dough next time. The meringue turned out lovely, but I probably should have chilled the bowl, I think it would have been fluffier. But this pie isn’t really about either of those things (my friend’s kid certainly didn’t think so as she left both on the plate but not a lick of chocolate. Love that girl!), it’s about the chocolate cream. Continue reading →