Shepherd’s Pie

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Good news: I’ve survived the first two weeks of school, and have just embarked upon my third. So far, so good—I’ve connected with a couple people, gotten into the groove of my new schedule, and I haven’t ripped too much of my hair out over the already massive amount of homework I have. Luckily, I actually like to be busy (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

There are a couple of classes I’m particularly excited about: Book Structures and Typography. Book Structures is, believe it or not, about the structure of books and how to make your own. I’ve already made a couple little, simple books with hard covers, and I am extremely excited to make books that actually look like books. One of my homework books includes Harry Potter imagery. Surprised? I should think not. Many of you probably know of my obsession with books, and also my love of the smell of books (Cara, you know what I’m talking about). Now I get to make my own books with their own book smell! You’ll never see me again. Or, at least, you’ll never see my nose again.

Typography is really exciting for me because one of the main reasons I got into graphic design is its unavoidable association with type. I feel like the Hermione of my class, because I’m always trying to answer questions and remain at the upmost attention (it pays off—I won some green duct tape in Bingo last week. Score!). We’re making ligatures at the moment—two letterforms intertwined to create one cohesive letterform—and it’s been my favorite piece of homework so far.

Ariel update: we got her a new scratching post, because the one we had gotten from Target was no good. To say she loves it is an understatement. When we got it we put a little catnip on it and she went crazy for it (I’m extremely curious as to what happens in cats’ brains when they smell that stuff). She sits on it for the majority of the day. And speaking of cats, Emma got a kitten for her birthday! I’m so jealous that I can’t be there to play with her. Poor Pippin may die of a heart attack, what with two cats in the house now.


Jonji has also been extremely busy with school, and has suffered through some long days recently. We both look forward to the time we get to spend at CrossFit, and the time we get to devote to friends. I finally convinced Kelsey to come over to see the place, despite her best efforts to avoid me (not true). She brightened up our place with some sunflowers and apologized for not bringing ice cream (what a keeper! But next time, bring the ice cream). We also got to spend some time with Todd and Jessica on Sunday, which pushed us to try out a new lunch spot just a couple streets away. The Curious Palette, as it’s called, has tasty, large salads and lovely chocolate croissants. Don’t worry, Tartine, you’re still my number one.

I’ve also been trying out new recipes, just to spice (sometimes literally) things up a bit. I made enchiladas last week and was wholly surprised to find out they were amazing. To make sure I actually am Irish and not secretly Mexican, I tried a Shepherd’s Pie recipe last night. Once again, I ended up pleasantly surprised with the results. Sometimes it pays off to give new things a chance!

Shepherd’s Pie

serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil*
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small (or 1/2 big) butternut squash, peeled and chopped the same size as the carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tsp tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken broth or water
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or miso paste
1.5 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
salt and pepper

Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Start the potatoes boiling (see below), then heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, butternut squash, and 1/2 tsp salt and sauté for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned. Mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the beef to the open center of the pan along with 1 tsp salt and some pepper. Cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes, then break up the meat into bite-sized chunks and cook for another few minutes, until cooked through. Sprinkle the corn starch on top, stir, and cook for another minute, then add the tomato paste, chicken broth, wine, Worcestershire or miso paste, rosemary, thyme, and parsley, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas, 1/4 tsp salt, and a little more pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Transfer the filling to a 13×9 inch baking dish and spread evenly over the bottom of the dish. Pile the mashed potatoes over the filling and smooth out until you have an even layer of potatoes. Score with a fork however you’d like.

Bake for 30–35 minutes, until slightly golden on top. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes if you want it a little more browned.

*This is a rough estimate—I rarely measure olive oil, so add more or less if you need to.

Mashed Potatoes

4 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk, plus more if needed
salt

Fill a large pot halfway with water and place over high heat. Add plenty of salt (I usually eyeball it, but I would use at least 2 tbsp or more—it should taste as salty as seawater), then add the potatoes and cook until soft and can easily slide off of a fork when pricked.

Once the potatoes are done, drain and place them in a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the butter, cream, and milk, and whisk to combine, just until there aren’t any huge lumps (some say using a stand mixer to make mashed potatoes is blasphemy because it can make them gluey, but I’ve had great results as long as I don’t mix too long or too hard. When in doubt, just mix less). Taste, then add salt 1/4 tsp at a time until you like it. Add more milk to get a softer consistency, but not so soft that it can’t hold its shape when scooped. Mash just until smooth (over mixing will result in that gluier consistency), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

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