21 January 2011

The Curried Apple Hunter's Pie Dinner

Tom was flipping through the lifestyle section of yesterday's Dallas's-only-daily and came across a recipe for shepherd's pie.  In case you don't know, shepherd's pie is very much like a pot pie, but insteading having a crust on top, it has mashed potatoes on top.  (Those crafty English folks...)  Tom made ours with a twist, though -- venison instead of beef.  A friend of ours is an avid hobby hunter (hang out with the boys, drink beer, shoot some stuff, repeat) and for the past few years has given us some of his victims.  Last year he gave us a bunch of ground venison, so we used that for last night's pie.  Tom christened it "The Hunter's Pie".

The list of ingredients and instructions look intimidating, but there is really nothing complicated.  And with all these flavors going together in one big dish, the result is nothing short of sublime -- a one-dish wonder dinner.

Coincidentally, the day before, I received a Facebook tag from a friend (thanks, Julie Richey!) with a recipe for a soup she had just made and loved -- curried apple.  That sounded so intriguing and exotic I HAD to make it.  I thought it would be a good starter for the hunter's pie -- the bold flavors of curry followed by the heartiness of the pie -- an Apple Pie Dinner!

So the pie would not have to sit alone on the dinner plates, I shredded and sauteed some Brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and garlic.  The is a preparation I learned from our neighbor, Paul.  It's a satisfying quick-fix side that works with just about any main course.

Curried Apple Soup  (pictured above)

Serves 8-10

6-quart soup pot or Dutch oven
immersion blender or regular upright blender

6 tart green apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (less if you're scared)
1-1/2 quarts vegetable stock
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
creme fraiche  (In a pinch, you could substitute sour cream.  The creme fraiche is a lot smoother in taste, though.)

Melt the butter in the soup pot and saute the onions until soft.  Stir in spices.  Add apples and stock.  Simmer until the apples are soft, about 15 minutes.  (Since the apple quarters float, I covered the pot for more even cooking and stirred several times.)  Remove from heat.
Puree the soup with your blender.  If you have the immersion blender, it's a no-brainer.  If you have to use your regular blender, do it in 2 or 3 batches so it doesn't explode in your face.  That would hurt.
Ladle into bowls and top each with a dollop (that's such an ugly word) of creme.  The recipe Julie shared says you can garnish it with chopped celery and chopped green apples.  I liked it with just the creme, and you can use a toothpick to make decorative swirl patterns with the creme.

Hunter's Pie

(The paper says this recipe feeds 6.  We had 5 for dinner and had about half of it left over.  And it's great left over!  Mother, this might be a good option for freezing and taking to Cades Cove.)

large saute pan
3-quart sauce pan
9 x 13 glass baking dish

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground venison
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound onion, peeled and very finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
6 tablespoons butter, divided divided 2.5/3.5
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste  (You know, you can get this stuff in a reclosable tube now.)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups beef broth
Kosher salt to taste
1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes  (We like them with the peeling on.)
2/3 cup whole milk, heated
2 egg yolks
freshly ground white pepper to taste

In the large saute pan, heat iol until hot.  Add the venison and season with pepper.  Brown well.  Remove meat from pan with a slotted spoon and put in a metal colander to allow excess fat to drain.  (Venison is pretty lean, so there won't be a lot.)
Add the onion, carrot, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and 2-1/2 tablespoons of butter to the pan.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook until browned.
Add the meat and tomato paste.  Sprinkle the flour over the mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the wine and Worcestershire, and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the broth, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.  It should be thick and glossy.
Remove from heat, cool slightly, taste, and adjust seasonings.
Finally, fire up the over to 400F.

For the mashed potato topping:
Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes until they're ready for mashing.  Drain.  Return potatoes to the pan.
Melt the remaining butter.
Mash the potatoes with the butter, adding enough hot milk to make the potatoes creamy.
Add the egg yolks, blending immediately so they don't scramble, and season with Kosher salt and white pepper.

Now, the assembly:
Lightly grease or butter the 9 x 13 baking dish.
Spread the meat mixture evenly in the dish, and top with the mashed potatoes.  Use a fork to make decorative swirls in the potatoes.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until it's bubbly around the edges and the potatoes are slightly browned.
Let it sit for a few minutes before digging in.  It will make your house smell delicious!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts

serves 8

food processor with sharp blade
large skillet

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Coarsely shred the sprouts in the food processor.  They should be about the same chop as cabbage that you'd put into coleslaw.
Heat butter and oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and saute until the sprouts are almost tender, about 3 minutes.
Toss in the lemon juice and serve immediately.