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Shepherd's Pie

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Or is it cottage pie? My beautiful niece Jessica called me the other night and asked, "Uncle Jim, what the heck (I don't think I have ever heard her swear) is China pie?" I asked her if she meant Chinese pie; she said yes. But she was still curious why some people call it Chinese pie while others called it shepherd's pie. She also wanted to know the origins and meaning of the name. (Thanks a lot Jess!)

First off, Chinese pie should indeed be called China pie, and it has hamburger on bottom, a layer of corn (either whole kernel or creamed) and is topped with mashed potatoes, baked and browned slightly on top. It was first made by railroad workers in Canada during the last half of the 19th century. As these workers migrated to China, Maine, they brought with them this dish, which the Maine people of the China region had never seen. It quickly became a favorite and was called China pie.

As for shepherd's pie (which we wrongly confuse with China pie), it is and should be made with ground and cooked lamb as the base. Lamb, as you well know, is a young sheep, hence 'shepherd.' In other words, the sheep herders of England made this dish using lamb. This dish is often called cottage pie in England, but please Jessica, don't make me give you that meaning as well.

Now for the Yankee Chef's turn. Although I should be focusing on the holidays, you can all blame my niece for changing this week's article. I created this twist on a classic dish in true Yankee style. I do hope you give it a try and let me know what you think. I think the pumpkin gives this dish a beautiful taste appeal that makes it a true winter specialty.

Beef and pumpkin shepherd's pie
1 lg. russet potato (about 3/4 lb.), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 can (15 oz.)pure pumpkin, divided
1/2 c. grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. black pepper, divided
1 T. vegetable oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 lg. carrots, peeled and chopped
3/4 lb. extra-lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 T. flour
1 t. garlic powder
1 c. beef broth
1 t. Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Place potato chunks in medium saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to saucepan; add 1 c. pumpkin, 1/4 c. cheese, 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper. Beat with hand-held mixer until smooth. Cover.

Meanwhile, heat oil in lg. skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until carrots begin to soften. Stir in beef, flour, garlic powder and remaining 1/4 t. salt and remaining 1/4 t. pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in broth, remaining pumpkin and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly.

Preheat broiler.

Spoon beef mixture into ungreased 9-inch deep-dish pie dish or other broiler-proof casserole dish (1 1/2- to 2-quart). Spoon pumpkin-potato mixture evenly over beef filling, spreading gently. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. cheese. Broil for 5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Check out my blog for a slew of holiday recipes: theyankeechef.blogspot. You can also follow me on Facebook, where I have recipes under a new group on my page called, of course, The Yankee Chef. The recipes I put on Facebook are mostly shortcut recipes, meaning I use prepared pie shells and many prepared ingredients. I did this because much of my family are parents, and they would have my head if I didn't make it as simple as possible. And remember, email me any questions about your holiday meal planning. I have helped many people so far and usually within 24 hours, so let's get our menus planned and enjoy the season. 

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