Influential Prose

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Christmas Cottage Pie

One of the keys to successful bachelor living is a willingness to play with your food. This is not to say spouses are unable to do so; it’s merely that they remain constrained by the tastes of their spouse and offspring. 
Bachelors, uncaged from such limitations, are free to explore to the edge of kitchen sanity and even sail beyond it. (That’s what fire extinguishers are for!)

Today’s adventure begins with a trip back in time, to the Rose & Crown restaurant at Disney World’s Epcot Center. My first wife Beth and I dined there sometime in the 80’s, and we were both smitten by the cottage pie. Some meals are so scrumptious the memory lasts a lifetime. This was one of those meals.

Fast forward to yesterday. Beth was revisiting Epcot and noted they still serve the cottage pie. After learning this, since I lack the means to fly immediately to Florida, I decided I would bring the cottage pie to me.

Thus the Christmas Day Mission: find the recipe, gather the necessary ingredients and magically hack them all into a cottage pie. Do it without injury to self or kitchen.

The deed is done.

Like so…

First offer your roommate a portion of the cooked goodies, but give him a chore to do. In Ashley’s case, this was transforming a whole onion into one cup of chopped onion.

A moment of teasing over onion-triggered tears can spark aggression, as you see here…

Soon afterward the onions were merrily soaking in a hot tub of butter.

The seasonings were lined up and ready to go.

Mixed these with the onions, gravy and lean beef. Stir and cook, preheat the oven to 400.

Ordinarily we would of course rely on real potatoes, but our kitchen is not yet endowed with a potato masher tool and I don’t think I have any drill bits quite right for the job either.

Ashley claims he can mash potatoes barehanded, one to each fist Paul Bunyan-style. I’ll believe it when I see it. Meantime, we used the less optimal dehydrated potatoes as a fallback.

Laying out the seasoned ground beef and upper layer of potatoes. Looks like newfallen snow blanketing freshly plowed earth.

The final appearance is mottled due to gravy bubbling up from the bottom.

As served, after 20 minutes in the oven and a few more to cool off, but still steaming.

It worked out pretty well. The ersatz potatoes lack the firm texture of the real thing, but the overall effect was satisfying. This is not a dish I would make daily as-is – it calls for rather more salt and butter than I care for, but much of that was for the potato mix.
With a little practice and refinement I think I can get it into the ballpark of Rose & Crown-caliber Scottish cottage pie.

Not bad for the first engineering prototype.

Disney World’s Rose and Crown Restaurant Cottage Pie Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup butter
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground savory (Yeah, I don’t know what this is, either. Check here for substitutions.)
1 cup brown gravy (homemade or instant)
2 cups mashed potatoes
Additional butter

1. Heat 1/4 cup butter in a 9-inch skillet.
2. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring consistently.
3. Add beef, salt, pepper, and savory (or whatever you’re using instead) and continue cooking 5 minutes longer.
4. Stir in gravy and heat until bubbling.
5. Spoon into a buttered, 8-cup flat casserole dish. (My dad always used a circular dish, or  you could use ramekins as they do at Rose and Crown.)
6. Top meat mixture with mashed potatoes.
7. Dot with pieces of butter.
8. Bake at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned.

Additional notes, same recipe:

Written by Influential Prose

December 25, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in cooking

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