Eat To Compete: Butternut Squash-Mashed Potato Shepherds Pie & Stout Soda Bread
Happy Hallowe’en! Once you’ve polished off that bucket of candy, you’ll be hankerin’ for a hearty hungry-man meal with real nutrition, but have no idea how to make. This month’s recipe is as tasty as it sounds, and a lot easier to make…
– By Casey Weaver –
Since I no longer live in West Los Angeles, the enchanted land of the double tail-wind to which I can attest, (see October’s Off-Season Myth Busters), this will be the first time in my life that I’ll have to contend with actual temperature change, and dare I say, precipitation. Though the prospects of this are frightening for someone born and raised in Southern California, the potential for reinvigorated staple Fall dishes to combat the spiteful cold far outweighs any ominous threats from above.
This dish has gone through a couple different variations. It started out as a savory tart, progressed to a pot-pie, lost it’s crust and became a stew, and is now presented to you as a variation of the cold-weather classic, the shepherds pie. The pie calls for stew beef, but can also be made with chicken or turkey. Some athletes are very particular about their consumption of red meat, and wisely so, as some cuts of red meat are very high in saturated fat and cholesterol. And some athletes avoid red meat all together. But not all red meat has the same nutrient profile, and certain cuts are considerably leaner than others. When at the market buying meat for this dish, keep an eye out for extra-lean stew beef if the fat content is a concern of yours; it is almost always available.
Red meat has its upsides, too. During training periods of particularly high intensity or high volume, our bodies can all too easily become iron deficient, leading to reduced performance and feelings of fatigue. The occasional serving of red meat is a great way to fight this, but as previously stated, be vigilant with your selection and always know what you are putting into your body.
Choose a tastey cut of lean beef – you’ll be glad you did.
Meal Plan Timing
In terms of timing for this meal, I like to get the meat and potatoes cooking, then make the bread and get it in the oven, then return to the rest of the shepherd’s pie. If you do this, do not forget about the bread in the oven. If timed right, the bread will be done just ahead of the pie, and will be rested and cooled just in time to serve. But do whatever works best for you.
Butternut Squash-Potato topping
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, about 4
1 medium butternut squash, halved, seeded, and peeled
Ѕ cup beef broth
1 t fennel seed, coarsely chopped
1 T extra virgin olive oil
ј cup pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper
Fresher ingredients always make for a better dish.
1 lb extra-lean stew beef, cubed into 1” pieces
2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets
5 shallots, 1 finely chopped, 4 sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
Ѕ crown cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
Ѕ head radicchio, sliced into Ѕ inch slices
1 Ѕ cups beef broth
2 T fresh lemon thyme
3 T olive oil, divided
2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 ј cups reduced fat buttermilk
6 oz stout beer
1 egg, beaten
1 T molasses
1 T dark brown sugar
1T baking powder
1 Ѕ t baking soda
1 t salt
1. To start, cook the meat and potato-squash topping
The first thing you want to do is get the meat cooking. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will be, and once it is on the stove you can go about getting everything else ready without having to really think about it.
In a medium saucepan, sautй one finely chopped shallot in one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for about five minutes; season with salt. Increase the heat to medium high and add the cubed beef. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for about eight minutes, stirring often and making sure all sides get browned. Once browned, add in one and a half cups beef broth and the broccoli florets, stirring a bit to help submerge the broccoli. At this point the florets will not all be totally submerged, this is ok as they will cook down. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low, cooking for at least one half hour, but ideally closer to a full hour. After about fifteen minutes, open the lid and stir the contents, breaking down the now soft broccoli with your spoon. Recover and continue to cook.
Once cooked you will remove the beef and add it to the filling, but be patient and read on and we will get there.
2. Cook the Potatoes and Butternut Squash
Start by cutting the potatoes into about two inch cubes. Personally, I like to leave the skin on my potatoes to add a little more substance to the topping, and frankly, I’ve never been afraid of a little extra fiber. If you want smooth and seamless mashed potatoes, feel free to remove the skin.
The squash is a different story. Halve it lengthwise, remove its seeds, and peel it with a vegetable peeler. Cut it into cubes about the size of your potatoes. Place both the squash and potatoes in a large pot of water on the stove, bring to boil, and cook until soft when pierced with a knife (note: the potatoes will take longer to cook than the squash, so they should be your determining factor of when the two are done).
Once cooked, strain the liquid and return the potatoes and squash to the pot used to cook them in. Mash them to a coarse consistency, then add in one tablespoon of olive oil, one half cup of beef broth, and the coarsely chopped fennel seeds. Continue to mash them to your desired consistency, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. For the Filling
At this point, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
I like to bake my shepherd’s pie in a twelve-inch cast-iron skillet. You can do all the preliminary cooking in the same skillet for simplicity’s sake, or if you do not want to dirty another dish. But I find it much easier to sautй all the ingredients in a larger skillet or sautй pan, then transfer them to the smaller twelve incher. This way you have plenty of room to stir and are not constantly knocking little bits onto the stove, which means any time you saved by not having to wash another dish is now irrelevant because you now have to do a major stovetop scrub down.
Sautй the remaining four sliced shallots in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about five to seven minutes, stirring often, until beginning to soften; season with salt. Add in the sliced parsnips and cauliflower florets, continuing to stir.
With a slotted spoon, remove the beef from the saucepan and transfer it to the parsnip and cauliflower sautй, stirring to combine. Pour the melted broccoli into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the pureed broccoli over the beef and vegetables and stir well to combine, then stir in the radicchio and lemon thyme, and cook for an additional one to two minutes. Season with black pepper to taste.
If you are baking your pie in a separate dish, give it a quick shot of cooking spray, then transfer the filling. Spoon the mashed potato-squash-topping evenly over the filling and top with pumpkin seeds and desired amount of Pecorino-Romano cheese.
Place the assembled pie in the preheated oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
4. For the Soda Bread
There are a few things the pop culture media and network news absolutely love to report on, and second only to animal heroics are the health benefits of culinary vices such as alcohol and chocolate. Rest assured that not only does the stout in this soda bread add a complexity of flavor, it also improves your health at the same time…
Any stout, such as Guinness, will work just fine, but I strongly recommend going down to the corner store and seeing what some of your local microbreweries have to offer. There is not one microbrewery out there these days not offering a dark and flavorful stout, and it is just these types of details that really create the intriguing nuances in your food. Not to mention if you buy a six pack, you now have the perfect pairing for your meal.
One last quick note. While making this bread, unlike many recipes where all the wet ingredients are mixed then added to the dry, I like to omit the molasses when combining the other wet ingredients, then stir it into the already formed batter. Often times viscous ingredients like molasses or honey do not mix well with other wet ingredients, and are much easier to work with if added straight to the batter and gently stirred in.
Bake the Bread
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, stirring to combine. Mix all the wet ingredients, except for the molasses in a separate bowl, stirring well to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then add the molasses, gently stirring to combine.
Dump the dough on a baking sheet or into a skillet sprayed with cooking spray and bake for about 45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Note: Bread can be separated into two smaller loaves, or baked as one large loaf.
About The Author:
Casey grew up in the kitchen inspired by his mom and grandmother, who ran the catering and cooking instruction company, Cooking in the Canyon, in Brentwood, Ca. He has worked as a private chef and currently works with the catering company Gourmet Solutions. He received his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from UCLA, currently races for the NOW-MS elite amateur team, and coaches endurance athletes with Velo-Fit, llc.
• See more of Casey’s work online at his website: CulinaryCompetitor.com
• Contact Casey at [email protected].
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