There has been much yearning these last few weeks at stately IPB Manor for shepherd’s pie. It all started when Katebits mentioned it on TWC in an offhanded comment about how comfy fall hockey is, and ever since this innocent aside I have been obsessed with the thought of eating it. Finally today, at long last, I had a convergence of energy after work, no Devils game on TV, and nothing from the farm on the brink of rotting that demanded being cooked right now, and I was able to set to it.
I’ve never made a shepherd’s pie before, but for some reason I was not even remotely nervous about making this up myself. I may have mentioned here before — but cannot stress enough — that I am a total weenie about doing things without recipes, but I guess the concept of a shepherd’s pie is easy enough even for me to handle. I started things off with my root vegetables, turnips and a rutabaga from the farm (it has been a crazy good year for rutabaga) and some regular store carrots, all chopped to a state of chunky uniformity, and sauteed until pretty well soft. I tossed in some salt, thyme and fresh ground pepper while they were at it. Once they were done I spread them in a deep baking dish, then started rendering off a few slices of chopped bacon, in the same pan, and then tossed in some diced onion and celery, letting them get nice and soft too. (As an aside, for the first time in five years my farm gave us celery. I’ve never had farm-fresh celery before, and it completely blew my mind. It’s supposed to be pretty tricky to grow, but I’m kind of tempted to give it a shot next year, just because it’s like a completely different vegetable compared to what you get from the grocery store.) So, when the bacon was crispy and the celery and onions soft, I scooped them out of the pan over the root veggies, and then tossed some relatively finely cubed pork loin into the pan with some salt, pepper, thyme and dried sage. When the pork was browned and delish, it got scooped into the baking pan, and I made a quick pan gravy in the fry pan with the drippings, some leftover homemade chicken stock and more sage. The gravy got poured down on the contents of the baking pan, and then I slapped the mountains of mashed potatoes I had leftover from last night’s dinner on top and baked the whole thing for about a half an hour, until the potatoes were browning up a little and the whole kit and caboodle was warmed through.
It ended up being a fair deal of work for a weeknight, just from the perspective that there were a lot of steps — I’m normally a lot lazier than this when I get home from work. But it was well worth the effort, and well worth the wait, because it was ridiculously delicious. Hearty, rich, full of veggie goodness and bacony badness: basically, all you could ask for in a dinner. Those shepherds really know how to live, don’t they?