Recipe 02: Shepherd's Pie + Focaccia Bread
Christian leads the Marketing Team here at DockATot but also shares a passion for all things culinary. As a father to an adorable toddler with a big appetite, he's always testing the limits of her taste pallet and as such, has some great recipes for the whole family- no matter the age of its diners. Take it away, Christian!
This is my first season back in New England in nearly 20 years, so I am soaking up ALL the foliage, crisp air, and finally… cozy, fall comfort food. I had originally just intended to do the pie, but then my sister-in-law introduced me to the easiest-ever focaccia recipe that’s bubbly, airy, crisp and the perfect complement to such a yummy, hearty meal.
This dish is versatile, easy-to-scale if you’re a big crew and heats up well as a leftover. There are lots of substitutes and hacks to meet various dietary restrictions or preferences, so make sure not to skip that section below.
- 2 tbsp preferred oil (my preference is avocado)
- 2 lbs ground lamb (see substitute options below)
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, diced into small cubes
- 6-7 oz peas
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- tomato paste
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 lbs potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks)
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup cream
- 4 Tbsp butter
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Let’s get fired up
Preheat the oven to 350°F, heat oil in a large pan until hot, and get your potatoes in seasoned water set to boil.
Build your base
To your heated pan, add ground protein, season with salt and pepper (to taste), continuing to separate to a fine grind for about 3-4 minutes.
Time for veggies: If they’re fresh carrots, add them for 3-4 min before adding onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. If not, you can combine this step and the next and add everything at once.
After 1-2 minutes with all the veggies getting happy, add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste, ensuring to scrape the pan to help blend all the flavors together.
We’re going to layer in the flavors, so pour in your red wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated.
Do the same with your chicken stock – this is going to make it a bit soupy, but let it simmer uncovered until it’s a thick sauce that sticks to the back of your spoon but still drips off. Think of a ground taco meat consistency.
How do we top this off?
Once tender, drain potatoes and return to the pot to cool off.
When they’re comfortable to touch, pass them through a potato ricer (you could just mash them however you usually do, but the creamier texture is awesome for this dish).
To the riced potato, add your cream, butter, about 1/4 cup of parmesan and two egg yolks then beat for a creamy, (almost) pudding-like texture. If you like the flavor of nutmeg, now would be a great time to do 2-3 twists on your nutmeg grinder, too.
If you build it, they will come
Time to assemble: Start by spreading your meat mixture across a casserole dish in an even layer. Using a large spoon, add potato mixture on top of the meat, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle. The less you have to spread and move the potato the better, so don’t be afraid spoon more often rather than in larger dollops.
Whatever you prefer, either use a fork to score in crossing diagonals, or fluff with your fork to create little peaks. Add more parmesan and pop your chef-d'oeuvre in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned on top.
SUBSTITUTES AND HACKs
This is one of the most versatile dishes in my repertoire. Not into lamb (I get it), then you can substitute with ground beef. Or turkey. Or pork. Or bison. I actually love to do a combination of 2 or more depending on what’s in the fridge/freezer or what’s on special at the grocery store. You could also look at lentils or veggie crumble options, but I caution that you’ll want to precook the lentils, and reduce the amount of time you cook the full mixture with veggies, etc.
I love yellow potatoes for this dish, but our house also loves sweet potatoes. Really, any potato will suffice, but you can also explore non-potato mashes like cauliflower.
My little one loves peas, but I know not all picky eaters do. Corn is a common alternative, but really you could swap in whatever veggie you’d like.
The Easiest, No-Knead Focaccia
Honestly, I’m typically not a baker because it’s often too exact of a science and doesn’t feel like I can let my creativity flow. However, this focaccia recipe is so easy and rewarding, plus I’ve already started tinkering with my own customizations…
While easy and requiring very few ingredients, the timing of stretching, turning, and allowing this recipe to rise, does take a little planning.
Let’s get to it…
- 4 cups bread flour
- ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil (have a little more on hand, just in case)
- 1 2/3 cup water (room temperature)
- 1 tbp flaky sea salt
- 1 tbp fresh rosemary (optional)
To a fairly large bowl, add you bread flour, followed by salt, 4 tsp oil and water. Stir the mixture until you get a wet, sticky dough that you’ll roll up (don’t over work it) then cover (I use plastic wrap) and let sit at room temperature for 12-14 hours. Yes… HOURS.
After that first long rest, set up a clean, flat work surface that you’ll add some oil onto to allow you to work the dough into a rectangle. Just use your hands to press and push the dough until it’s approximately 16” x 12”.
Fold into thirds on top of itself horizontally, and then again vertically, then transfer the smooth side (folding seams on the bottom) into a generously oiled pan.
Cover again and rest for about an hour – at this stage, your little ball of heaven should have nearly doubled in size.
Repeat the same exercise as above, folding over itself in thirds in each direction, then transferring for another hour of covered rest.
Each of these cycles of folding the dough over is not only developing the gluten structure, but creating those wonderful air pockets focaccia is so well known for.
During one last folding cycle, after you’ve repeated the exercise one last time, you’re going to transfer to a generously oiled metal baking pan (I like one with a heavier bottom to help crisp up the bottom of the bread, too). Lightly drizzle with some additional oil and stretch to fit the pan. This time, let it rest for two hours.
Now it’s finally time for action. Preheat your oven to 425F. Unwrap your masterpiece and using oiled fingers to poke into the dough to create those familiar divots. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary, then bake for 30 minutes.
Once you remove it from the oven, let it rest in your baking pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to come down to room temp (or maybe just a few degrees hotter for your first taste test).
Slice and serve, and know that it’ll keep for a few days in a zip lock or air tight container if you don’t eat it all the first day!