Sunday, December 18, 2011


This weekend was a quiet one, and we needed it. Last week, I was out four of the five weeknights for lots of holiday cheer and that is too much for me and for the kids. Jeremy and I each had a work holiday party Thursday, along with Jack's holiday party at school Friday.
Jack with the Day School's beloved "Grandma" Penny.

By yesterday morning, I was pooped. Jack and I both were sick, and we all hid away from the world, spending Saturday in our pjs and watching the snow from our window. Jeremy and I even had to cancel our plans to attend friends' holiday party that night.

Today, we regrouped. We were all feeling better and the sun was shining brightly. I took off early in the morning, hitting stores as they opened. I finished my Christmas shopping and bought my ingredients for my Hanukkah dinner (how many people can say that in the same sentence?). I came through our front door, stashing a few toy shopping bags in the front closet and triumphantly holding an 8-pound, bone-in turkey breast.

And the big to-do after an early lunch: We took Jossie for her first haircut. Everyone I know has an opinion on if we should cut her hair or not, but I reasoned, I'm the mama, so I get to decide. And so:


I started dinner around 4 p.m. tonight. I have been determined to find the best shepherd's pie recipe ever. I have tried many a recipe and this time, I modified one I had found through the Epicurious app. While my version doesn't use the traditional ground lamb, I think I've found a winner. The fresh rosemary really makes this dish; one whiff of it, and I feel like I'm in Tommy Nevin's Pub back in Evanston. 

The Best Shepherd's Pie Ever
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 pounds ground beef
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat parsley
1 cup frozen peas
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Egg wash:
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon water

In a large sauté pan (I used my dutch oven) over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, and meat. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the fat and add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10-12 minutes, then add the peas.

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.

Mash the potatoes with the butter, half-and-half, salt and pepper. My preferred mashing method is to bust out the electric hand mixer.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, then crosshatch the top with a fork.

Brush the potatoes with egg wash.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

Shepherd's pie is not the most photogenic. I tried to take pictures but they were not pretty. Just trust me on this one and try out this recipe some cold winter night.

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