The reason this post is so much later is because I'm linking up with Jenn today, joining other bloggers in Support for Sandy.
The whole purpose of this event is to share a meal you'd give to someone that's comforting and filling. Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you that I try to show I care through food. I'll bake, bring meals, share cookies, anything, really. I know first-hand the comforting power of food, and I try to share that with everyone who walks into our home. And really, what's more comforting than Shepherd's Pie? It's a one-pot meal that's perfect for cold nights and warming souls. Shepherd's Pie is one of those meals that you can easily make your own by adding and subtracting ingredients, perfect for customizing for those you love.
I adapted the pie from Ashlee, and the idea for the potatoes comes from Ghoulish Goodies, by Sharon Bowers. I tried to make my ghosts pretty and spooky like Sharon's, but I'm still learning my way around a pastry bag. If I piped straight down onto the pie, the ghosts flopped over--I wasn't tapering off enough at the top--so I tried to make them a little whispy and spiraled them upwards instead.
More important than my ineptitude with a pastry bag is the relief effort going on in the American northeast right now. During a month when we post daily status updates about what we're thankful for, please remember those who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy. You can make a gift to the American Red Cross by clicking the Support for Sandy button above. Donations to the American Red Cross are always appreciated and necessary, and know that you're helping your brothers and sisters here in the United States. We've been gathering clothes and supplies here at home for the last week and are preparing to send off our donations this weekend. Anything you can give will help and make an immediate impact. Finally, don't forget to check out Jenn's blog today and see all the submissions linked up today.
Ghost-topped Shepherd's Pie
(Adapted from Veggie by Season and Ghoulish Goodies)
1 T. vegetable oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2-3 carrots, sliced into coins
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. red wine or beef stock
1/2 c. tomato puree
Splash beef or chicken stock
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 c. frozen peas
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (I prefer Russett)
1/2-1 c. milk
4 T. butter
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dark seeds (I used fennel)
Heat oven to 375* F. In a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 T. vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Brown beef in oil and crumble. Add onions and carrots and cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add in tomato puree, stock, thyme, cinnamon, and peas. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Stir together and pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
For potatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, and add potatoes. Cook for 20-30 minutes until tender, but not falling apart. Drain potatoes, return to pot, and turn heat to low. Mash well, removing the lumps from your potatoes.
In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter together to a gentle simmer. Add in 1/2 c. milk mixture and continue to mash until smooth. (You may want to add more milk if potatoes are too stiff.) Season with salt and pepper, and add in cheese. Continue to mash until potatoes are smooth.
Spoon into a pastry bag with a wide, smooth tip (or ziplock with a corner snipped off). Top pie with mashed potatoes. Create ghosts by either swirling upwards or by pushing down on the bag at the base and then tapering upwards. Press dark seeds into the head for eyes.
Cook pie for 20-30 minutes, until ghosts are just lightly golden browned at the edges and mixture is warmed through. Top with additional cheese, if desired.