GLUTEN FREE. DAIRY FREE. For a foodie, food allergies are anything but freeing. Thankfully, the only things I am somewhat allergic to are citrus and walnuts … but lately my friends, I have been exposed to intense second-hand food allergies.
Recently, Shnoo (my true love, life partner, and live-in bf) discovered that he, like so many others, is allergic to both gluten and dairy. KILL-ME-NOW. “Seriously? This has to be a phase,” I keep thinking to myself as I pour through cookbooks looking for recipes that he can eat and that I am willing to eat. But, in truth, it’s most likely not just a phase. His mom is an Ashkenazi Jew which means that gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease) is common in his genes. Normally, this kind of discovery would have set this food flirt running … running away from the relationship and to the nearest bakery to make sure that I too hadn’t contracted the disease. But, Shnoo is not just another “drop in the bucket” or “flash in the pan” as my mom used to call my man of the moment. I’ve found a guy whose love trumps my love for food and as long as he doesn’t stand between me and my exotic cheese plate with artisanal crackers, I’ll learn to enjoy dairy and gluten solo and perhaps, in a bit more moderation. It may even be good for me.
Lot’s of people, especially those who tend to be “trend-eaters” have been hopping on the Lactose Intolerant Party Bus and dabbling in gluten free food since it’s become practically popular. Some of us just want to try out this new way of eating and others are truly coming out of the allergy closet to openly acknowledge that their fragile internal ecosystems can just NOT handle dairy and/or gluten. So, it’s an interesting time in the food world and rather than sit on my kitchen counter brooding over that fact my Shnoo and I may never sit on the banks of the Seine river sharing a crusty baguette and market fresh cheese, I’ve set out on a mission to use my passion for cooking to create gluten free, dairy free recipes so scrumptious, that even foodies without allergies will want to enjoy them. But don’t worry … you’ll still see plenty of gluten goodness and dairy indulgence on FoodFlirt.com.
I am calling this recipe “My Shepherd’s Pie” since I made it at the request of Shnoo, who is in someways my shepherd. I met him at a time in my life when I was feeling quite lost, adrift in the big blue world, not knowing where to go next. As the co-founder of a successful business at the ripe age of 25, he seemed anything but lost. He was so confident, clear on his intentions and committed to his goals. I had never dated anyone who led me. I always led them, helped them, guided them. It felt good to hold his hand and for the first time, let someone lead me back to the trail that would take me to the next meaningful chapter in my life.
He’d seen Shepherd’s Pie on Master Chef, one of our favorite shows. Now that there are many things he can’t eat, he’s always on the look out for things he can and Shnoo happens to love, love, love “meat and potato” type recipes. He simply could not believe that he’d never heard of this extremely “David friendly” dish. We have been trying to eat vegetarian more often, but who was I to deny my love a few bites of bliss? I’d never eaten or made Shepherd’s Pie either so I researched numerous recipes online and ended up using Alton Brown’s recipe as a general guide. If you know me at all, you know I almost never follow a recipe exactly, but prefer to use them for technical cooking tips and overall inspiration to help me create a piece of edible art that’s my own. So, thanks Alton for helping me make my very first Shepherd’s Pie. (I actually met him at the New York Food and Wine Festival! He was one cool food expert and if you could get your Ph.D. in foodieness, he’d have it, surely.)
4 pounds russet potatoes
3/4 cup almond milk
4 ounces or 1/4 cup earth balance (vegan-margarine)
2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (add more or less to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (add more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2 egg yolks
For meat filling:
4 tablespoons grapeseed, olive or canola oil
1 1/2 cup chopped red onion (yellow onion for more mild flavor)
4 large carrots, peeled and diced small
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 pounds ground bison (lean of possible – you can also substitute lamb or beef)
2 to 3 teaspoons Tandoori spice powder (optional but delicious – you can also use a red, yellow, or green curry spice)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup rice flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves (fresh is very important)
3 teaspoon freshly minced thyme leaves
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas (they don’t have to be English)
Feel free to play around and add any other vegetables you’d like as long the pieces are consistent in size and don’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes to cook.
Once potatoes are boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until tender and easily crushed with fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. (This is a genius way to cook potatoes quickly for mashing – thanks again Alton!)
Drain the potatoes in a colander. While they are draining, place almond milk and earth balance into a small pot and heat on medium until margarine is melted, stirring continually. Set aside.
Place potatoes in bowl of Kitchen Aid or standing mixer of you have one. If not, return them to saucepan, pour in almond milk mixture, and mash using masher or ricer. FOR STANDING MIXER: Using the paddle attachment, beat potatoes on medium speed for about 30 seconds then add the almond milk, earth balance, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne and continue to beat on medium until smooth (about 1 – 2 minutes), scraping bowl with spatula as needed. Do not over beat. Beat in yolks until combined, about 1 minute. There will be small lumps in the potatoes.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For meat filling: Place the oil into a large stock pot and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to brighten in color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add bison meat, Tandoori spice, salt, ginger, red pepper flakes and black pepper then cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 4 to 5 minutes, using spatula to “crumble” meat.
Sprinkle meat with flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, ketchup, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer on low for 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the corn and peas to the bison mixture and fold in gently.
TIME TO PUT THE PIE TOGETHER! Spread meat filling evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes. Start by mounding potatoes around the edges to create a seal that will prevent the meat mixture from bubbling up. Next fill in the middle of the pie with potatoes and use spatula to smooth them into an even layer. Use small frosting spatula to create “scalloped” look on potatoes or run the prongs of a fork across the potato to create texture.
Place baking dish on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet on the middle oven rack and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Broil on high for 2 to 4 minutes prior to removing from the oven to further brown the top. DO NOT BURN! Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.