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October '09

The Kitchenless Cook
Leftover phobia
By Bill Knutson

WIth all of the retailers hawking trinkets and treats to demonstrate the depth of our love to our significant others, I wanted to head in the opposite direction and write about something I don’t love – leftovers. If something goes into a little airtight container and then into the fridge, it may as well be sent to that government warehouse with Indy’s Ark, because I never want to see it again. There are a few exceptions, like chili and soup, but those are made with the expectation they will be eaten for a couple of days, and besides, they really do taste better the second day.

photo: Elizabeth Armstrong
I’m not sure if this is just a strange phobia I’ve developed, or if I just don’t like reheated food. It probably explains why I don’t (or ever want to) own a microwave. Another reason I’m not a fan of leftovers is I don’t want to have the same thing for dinner two nights in a row. It may seem petty, but I just don’t like it. I’ve learned to get around this somewhat by recycling leftovers into something different, like Prime Rib one night, French dip sandwiches the next.

 This is how I got the inspiration for this month’s recipe: I had grilled a leg of lamb for my nephew Vincent’s birthday last year and had almost two pounds of meat left over. I had cooked it a perfect medium rare and didn’t want to reheat it, so I ran it through my meat grinder and used it as a base for a shepherd’s pie. I used the leftover mashed potatoes and even that little bag of frozen peas hanging out in the freezer.

This recipe calls for new ingredients, but I often make it when I have leftover mashed potatoes or ground meat.


Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 6

6 medium potatoes
½ cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground lamb (or beef)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
½ pound frozen peas
2 teaspoons savory leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes and boil in saucepan until tender. Drain and add milk and 4 tablespoons butter. Mash until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (or a large skillet if you plan to bake the pie in a casserole dish). Add the lamb and cook until browned. Add onion, garlic and carrots and cook until soft. Add peas and seasonings and stir well. Transfer to a casserole dish if desired. Evenly spread the mashed potatoes over the meat to create a crust. Divide the remaining butter into 4 pieces and place on top of potatoes.

Bake uncovered until the potatoes start to brown lightly, approximately 30 minutes. Let sit for 5–10 minutes before serving.

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