January 4, 2013 by caitlinvaclark
Today’s recipe is my nod to where I’m from and where I am now. Dinner last night was some good ole southern mac and cheese on top of classic British pub grub, shepherd’s pie. I actually created this recipe while living in North Carolina, with the help of my favorite cooking buddy, Jessica. Jessica owns the Sweet Cravings Cookie Company* and makes the most incredible desserts. But she’s a pretty damn good savory cook too!
After a perfect meal, I just wish I could have one of Jess’ ginger molasses cookies. Blatant plug but if you are drooling right now, she does ship anywhere in the U.S.!
Start this recipe by making a shepherd’s pie base. For clarity sake, shepherd’s pie is used to refer to stewed ground lamb covered in mashed potatoes. And cottage pie is made with ground beef. I actually like to make this recipe with lean ground turkey, and who knows what you call that. Should we just go with Genius Pie?!
This time making it, I used a combo of ground pork and lamb, simply because that was what the closest grocery store had and I was lazy. So feel free to use whatever combo of ground meat is your favorite.
Once the meat has begun to brown, start building the flavor base with tomato paste and beef soup starter (which of course you can get from Penzeys) or in this case I used a Knors stock pot. If you wanted you could also sub a good beef broth for the cup of water.
Once you have simmered the shepherd’s pie base, be sure to taste it a) to check for seasoning and b) to see how delicious this dish already is. Then move on to the mac and cheese topping. Make a thick cream sauce, then add lots and lots of cheese!
When I make a mac and cheese, I love to use at least two, usually three cheeses: one that is sharp like a cheddar, one that’s nutty and salty (gruyere or parmesan), and one that is a good gooey melting cheese such a fontina or brie. Basically, my theory is if you are making mac and cheese, it better be a cheese-tastic overload of flavor!
Now you stir the gooey cheesy tasty sauce into the pasta and fight the urge to eat all of it before you finish the dish. Instead carefully spoon the mac and cheese over the shepherd’s pie base, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes until bubbly, golden, and delicious. I realize this dish takes a few steps but it is soooo worth it. And it can definitely be made in advance, just bake it for about 15 extra minutes to be sure it heats through.
Mac & Cheese Shepherd’s Pie
For the Shepherd’s Pie:
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 ½ lbs. ground turkey
3 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. beef soup starter
½ cup red wine
¼ tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 cup water
1 cup frozen peas
For the Mac & Cheese:
16 oz. dried elbow noodles or small pasta
4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
4 cups milk
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
3 oz. brie cheese, rind removed
Salt and Pepper
¾ cup Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
Begin by making the Shepherd’s Pie: heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the carrot, celery, garlic, and thyme. Cook for 3 more minutes.
Add the ground turkey to the pot, crumbling as it cooks. After 5 minutes, add the tomato paste, beef soup starter, and Worchestershire sauce. Once mixed, pour in the wine and simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the water and the peas. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
While the meat base simmers, make the mac and cheese. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 7 minutes and then drain.
To make the sauce, melt 4 Tbs of butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for 2 minutes. Then slowly pour in the milk whisking continually. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently.
Once the sauce is thick, turn off the heat and add the cheese. After all the cheese melted, season with salt and pepper.
Mix the sauce with the pasta.
Spoon the pasta over the meat base in the dutch oven. Cover with the panko and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.