Turkey Herder Pie

With bare cupboards, a grumbling stomach, and no idea what to make for dinner, I somehow managed to throw this shepherd’s pie clone together in about 45 minutes. To my utmost astonishment, it didn’t suck. I quickly grabbed a pad of paper and scribbled down the recipe, and because I’m super nice I’m going to share it with you.

Skip to the short version

A completely non-authentic shepherd's pie rip off. We loved it.

A completely non-authentic shepherd’s pie rip off. We loved it.

It was just another regular old Sunday night at home, and there was nothing to eat. The pantry, freezer, and refrigerator were all in that familiar “blah” phase that takes places right before one drags oneself to the store to restock. Just as I was lamenting the grocery situation, my wife Shawn said, “Doesn’t shepherd’s pie sound good?”

” Fire up the broiler and show those stupid potatoes who’s boss “

We had barely any food in the house at all, so shepherd’s pie was very unlikely. “Oh sure, and why don’t we ask Bruce Willis to deliver some for us in a free Rolls Royce?” I said. Well, that’s what my brain wanted to say. My mouth, being tired of constantly getting into trouble thanks to my brain, decided instead to say “Sure, I’ll see what I can come up with.” My brain was horrified. Shawn was right though, shepherd’s pie did sound good.

There are a bajillion recipes out there, each one a little different, but there are some common themes. In a typical shepherd’s pie (aka, cottage pie), there is usually some kind of meat simmered in broth and Worcestershire sauce, some kind of vegetable, cheese or cream, onions, and mashed potatoes. I rummaged the freezer again and came up with some ground turkey I had forgotten about. The spice rack yielded beef bouillon powder and some dehydrated onions, and the pantry coughed up a box of instant potatoes and a can of corn. Well whaddya know. Rock and roll.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dehydrated minced onions
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp beef bouillon dissolved in 1 cup hot water (or 1 cup beef broth)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar is best)
  • 2 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes


Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brown the turkey in a skillet with the olive oil, dehydrated onions, and garlic powder, being careful not to overcook. When the turkey is barely done (don’t worry, it’ll cook quite a bit longer), add the boullion or broth, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, thyme, and paprika. Stir well and simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 or 15 minutes. Salt to taste and remove from heat.

This is an obligatory picture of cheese.

This is an obligatory picture of cheese.

Layer the meat mixture in the bottom of a 13×9 casserole dish and cover with the drained corn. Add the cheese in another even layer, and then carefully spread the mashed potatoes over all of that using a rubber spatula. If you want to get fancy (and who doesn’t), take a fork and lightly scrape the top of the mashed potatoes to give it some texture. The resulting tiny little peaks of mashed potato will get toasty, ramping up the “Wow, look what you made!” factor.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned. If they still aren’t browned after 25 minutes, fire up the broiler and show those stupid potatoes who’s boss. Remove from oven, dish up generous scoops of meaty goodness onto whatever plates you happen to have clean, and do be careful not to sear the flesh from the roof of your mouth. If you can come up with a better name than “Turkey Herder Pie”, I’m all ears. That was the best Shawn and I could come up with while under the influence of a respectable post-dinner food coma.

Super awesome tip: If you have a Dutch oven (tee hee), you can make this entire recipe in the one piece of cookware without having to do the skillet-to-baking-dish transfer thing.

Mmm, I do love me some tiny little toasty peaks of mashed potato.

Mmm, I do love me some tiny little toasty peaks of mashed potato.



tl;dr

Turkey herder pie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dehydrated minced onions
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp beef bouillon dissolved in 1 cup hot water (or 1 cup beef broth)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar is best)
  • 2 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes


Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brown turkey in a skillet with the olive oil, dehydrated onions, and garlic powder. Add boullion or broth, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, thyme, and paprika. Stir well and simmer uncovered for 10 or 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Salt to taste and remove from heat. Layer meat mixture in the bottom of a 13×9 casserole dish. Cover with drained corn, then cheese, then mashed potato. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until mashed potato layer is lightly browned.



See also


The Melt

meter-great+The people who work at The Melt have been spying on me. They must have been. It’s one thing for a restaurant to have exactly what I want to eat and just the right sides and drinks, but to have only those things? Yeah, coincidence my butt.

The other day I found myself wandering around Stanford Shopping Center, a well-to-do outdoorsy mall type place right in the middle of Palo Alto. It’s a nice place to shop and all, but it’s not really my cup of tea. If I was in the market for a size minus three cocktail dress or a Swarovski encrusted penguin, I’d probably think this mall was the bees knees. What I really wanted was lunch, though, and the standard mall fare I’d found so far just wasn’t cutting it. After what seemed like tens of minutes of searching, I finally located a directory with actual directions on it. (Mini rant: Why has every mall in America replaced their maps with advertisements? Ads do no good at all if I can’t find the stupid stores they go to.) As I scanned the the directory I spied The Melt. That sounded to me like either a heated yoga studio or a Modern English souvenir store, both very likely choices in a place like Palo Alto. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.

With a name like The Melt, there'd better be cheese involved. Lots of it.

With a name like The Melt, there’d better be cheese involved. Lots of it.

I made my way to the other end of the mall, dodging Armani baby strollers by the dozen and doing a pretty good OJ-Simpson-in-an-airport impersonation in the process. As I made my way through yet another swarm of people in overpriced Pilates outfits, I caught a glimpse of The Melt. The restaurant sports a clean, utopian orange-and-white color scheme and a menu straight out of my dreams.

First thing on the menu: Grilled cheese. OMG

Second thing on the menu: Grilled cheese. …and then I fainted.

The interior decorating style is half In-N-Out Burger, half IKEA.

The interior decorating style is half In-N-Out Burger, half IKEA.

” That sounded to me like either a heated yoga studio or a Modern English souvenir store “

The entire menu, in fact, revolves around this single, exquisitely perfect food. There are different choices for bread, cheese, and various add-ins (like bacon!), and there are also soups and salads to be had. The beverage menu is equally brief, with the primary choices being iced tea, lemonade, and water. It’s perfect.

It took me exactly 12.7 seconds to notice the Mac Daddy, a grilled cheese WITH MACARONI AND CHEESE IN IT. Holy heck I love this place. One of those please with, oh yes, a side Caesar salad and an iced tea. Talk about a slam dunk. To top things off the cashier asked, “Would you like chips or a pickle?” PICKLE! Hot dang this place is on fire.

Macaroni and cheese IN a grilled cheese sandwich. *eye twitch*

Macaroni and cheese IN a grilled cheese sandwich. *eye twitch*

I filled up the environmentally friendly plastic-like cup with tea and settled down to enjoy my golden, crispy, macaroni-y lunch. The thing that surprised me was not the high quality of the food, but how well portioned everything was. My grilled cheese wasn’t a super duper über mega glutton-size sandwich – it was just a sandwich. The iced tea was a respectable (and refillable) 20 ounces, and the salad was …well, salad-sized. Outstanding. It was just enough to eat without making me split my pants, and yet it was still delicious and awesome. Somewhere along the way our society has managed to forget that more doesn’t always equal better; it’s nice to see that someone remembered. Add to that some snazzy online ordering tools and lightning quick service, and we’ve got ourselves a real winner here.

If I had to nitpick something, it would be what my lunch was served in. Instead of plates or plastic containers, The Melt opts for reusable wire mesh baskets lined with a single sheet of what looks like wax paper. I well and truly appreciate the environmentally friendly approach – really, I do – but eating salad off of a piece of paper just doesn’t work. By the end of my meal the paper had soaked through with dressing, leaving large soggy holes for the lettuce to fall through to the maybe-clean counter top directly below. Gross.

In spite of the eating receptacle issues, I rate The Melt a phenomenal 9.3 out of 10 metric tons of cheddar. If you’re a grilled cheese fanatic like I am, you owe it to yourself to grab a bite here.

The Melt
Multiple locations around the Bay Area (and many other places)
www.themelt.com
The Melt on Urbanspoon

I may never eat anywhere else again.

I may never eat anywhere else again.


Experimental pizza roll

I nearly named this recipe “pizza doh” because it really didn’t look like it was going to turn out, but in spite of itself it ended up being something humans can eat. My better half described this recipe as “a fun way to eat pizza”, and I think that description is spot-on. The entire process of preparing this was equal parts recipe and experiment, and the results were favorable enough that I’ll be making this again.

Skip to the short version

” The tube detonated with a doughy ‘wump’ “

As usual, I did not come up with this idea myself. I was not influenced by any one recipe – simply browsing through dozens of “pizza roll” and “rolled up pizza” recipes available on the interwebs was enough to get an idea of what to do.


Ingredients:

  • 1 tube Pillsbury pizza dough
  • 1 metric ton shredded mozzerella
  • 1 gaggle pepperoni (I’m pretty sure they come in gaggles. If not, they should)
  • green olives to taste (Read: The whole jar.)
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar premade pizza sauce


Directions:

Set your oven to 375 degrees F.  Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and mentally prepare yourself to open the tube of pizza dough. I know that opening the tube sounds simple, but it didn’t go so smoothly when I tried it. Perhaps it would have helped if I had read the directions, or perhaps I am exceedingly sub-par when compared to whatever Pillsbury considers to be the lowest common denominator. Regardless, when I pulled the little triangular tab, the tube detonated with a doughy “wump”, shredding the pristine sheet of rolled up pizza dough that was once inside. Super. If this same exact thing happens to you, welcome to the slow class – there’s an available seat right here next to mine. Do your best to patch together the tattered dough remnants into something vaguely rectangular and place it on the sheet of foil.  Try not to dwell on this humiliating moment.

Add a layer of pepperoni directly onto the Frankendough, covering as much area as you can.  Next sprinkle some shredded cheese…. No, not sprinkle. Sprinkle is too small of a word to describe how cheese is applied. Heap some shredded cheese on top of the pepperoni in an even layer. Wait, you’re saying. WAIT. Where’s the sauce?? Aha! That’s all part of the plan. The sauce comes later. Much later. For now just keep your socks on and do what I say.

Add any other toppings you like at this point, namely green olives. Lots of ’em.  I’m not sure if any other pizza toppings actually exist, but if they do feel free to use them I guess. You can also dash a bit of Italian seasoning over the top of everything as well, and maybe add some garlic powder and Parmesan if you’re feeling extra sassy.

It ain't pretty, but even an ugly pizza can be a good pizza.

It ain’t pretty, but even an ugly pizza can be a good pizza.

Starting at one of the shorter sides, carefully begin rolling up the whole mess into kind of a large mutated burrito.  Lightly rub the top with some olive oil and a dust bit more Italian seasoning on top to help hide the horrific scars.  Stick it in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

I don't remember putting a hand grenade in this before baking it.

I don’t remember putting a hand grenade in this before baking it.

Ah. Well this is awkward. Quickly, cut the roll into slices before anyone notices that the whole operation has gone pear-shaped.  At this point, just pretend like everything that has happened so far has been according to plan.  The more confident you seem, the less likely guests will be to question your methods.

Serve the roll slices with some warmed up pizza sauce (for dipping) and try not to burn off all the flesh from the roof of your mouth.

Well hey, that didn't turn out so bad afterall.

Well hey, that didn’t turn out so bad afterall.



tl;dr

Experimental pizza roll

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube Pillsbury pizza dough
  • 1 metric ton shredded mozzerella
  • 1 gaggle pepperoni
  • green olives to taste
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar premade pizza sauce


Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Open tube of dough and lay on a flat surface. Layer on pepperoni, cheese, olives, and any other toppings you like. Roll up dough and pinch trailing edge against roll to seal. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Slice roll and serve with heated pizza sauce.


Tater Tot casserole

My wife Shawn and I have a lot in common, especially our tastes in cuisine. We particularly enjoy comfort food type dishes, and we have quite a collection of recipes in this category. We tend to cook these dishes while we are camping (we have a 5th wheel RV trailer the size of Iceland and an equally massive redneck truck to tow it with), so we have dubbed this sort of food “trailer trash”. We love the heck out of it.

Skip to the short version

” If you’re a wimp, top with the recommended two cups of cheese “

This recipe is fits squarely into the above category, and we couldn’t be happier about that. It’s apparently a classic, but it’s a new one on us. The version we initially came across was this one, but you can find unsurprisingly similar recipes here, here, and here. It includes all the cornerstones of blue collar cooking, namely meat, cheese, potatoes, and cream of chicken soup. There is no way this can suck.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef (We prefer to use ground turkey. Get over it.)
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (10.75oz) cream of chicken soup.
  • 1 small package (16oz) frozen Tater Tots
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. If you don’t know what “F” means, I’m not going to explain it. That’s your fault for not paying attention in school. In a skillet, sauté the onion in a little butter and olive oil. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. If you prefer a bit more onion-y-ness in your food, brown the beef first and add the onion after. Or, if you are feeling particularly lazy, you can use dehydrated onion instead.

Stir the cream of chicken soup into the ground beef mixture, salt and pepper to taste, and spread evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Top with the frozen Tater Tots in whatever form of symmetry makes you feel good about yourself. In a related side note, do not attempt to eat a frozen Tot – they are crazy disgusting when not cooked. I’ve heard. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the Tater Tots are golden brown. Don’t worry about the cheese, we haven’t forgotten it. That comes next.

omg   cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese

omg cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese

Remove casserole from oven and, if you’re a wimp, top with the recommended two cups of cheese. If, on the other hand, you feel more fiercely independent and confident in your kitchen abilities, add three cups of cheese. OR FOUR. Don’t let some stupid recipe tell you how much cheese is enough – that’s your decision dammit. Once you have added the appropriate amount of cheese, return the casserole to the oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, say 5 or 10 minutes.

Serve with a nice… Actually, you know what? Screw the side dishes. This has everything in it already. Just eat it!

Trailer trash heaven on a plate.

Trailer trash heaven on a plate.



tl;dr

Tater Tot casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (10.75oz) cream of chicken soup.
  • 1 small package (16oz) frozen Tater Tots
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sauté onion in butter and olive oil, add ground beef/turkey and cook until browned. Stir in cream of chicken soup, salt and pepper to taste, and spread evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Top with frozen Tater Tots and bake for 30 minutes or until Tater Tots are golden brown. Remove casserole from oven, top with cheese, and return to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.



See also