In Spain, it's customary to give other people presents to celebrate the day of your birth. At least, I think that’s how it works (I was a little fuzzy on the language). If not, I may owe some people their stuff back.
Anyway, in keeping with that tradition, here’s the shepherd’s pie recipe that brings me so much happiness. May it do the same for you.
Rustic Shepherd’s Pie
The only problem with this recipe is that it doesn’t make nearly enough. You could double it, I suppose, but those are some really big, scary numbers. Six pounds of ribs? A quart of wine? An entire tiny (yet very expensive) bottle of maple syrup? I fear you might ask me to wire you some money for the ingredients and, I’m sorry, but I’m not THAT generous on my birthday.
3 lbs. beef short ribs
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 head of garlic, cut in half across the equator
2 cups red wine
½ cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ cup snipped chives
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 325°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat, heat olive oil and brown ribs on all sides. Remove ribs from the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until lightly browned and caramelized, about 5-7 minutes.
Return ribs to the pan and add garlic, red wine, maple syrup, peppercorns, and rosemary. Stir, cover the pan with foil so that it’s flat against the meat and comes all the way up the sides of the pan (you might need two sheets), and cover with lid. Place in the oven for 3-4 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
In the meantime, bake whole sweet potatoes in the oven until soft and easily pierced with a fork (about an hour, maybe longer depending on size). Let cool. Remove skins and put potatoes in a mixing bowl. Add butter, eggs, nutmeg, chives, salt, and pepper. Mash until smooth. Set aside.
Remove the ribs to a plate. Discard bones and shred the meat with a fork, placing it in an 8”x8” baking dish. Strain and reserve cooking liquid (discarding solids) and pour on top of meat. Spread sweet potato mash on top of that, and bake 35 minutes, until bubbly. You can also stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to get some color on the top. As you can see from the picture, though, I’m often too hungry to bother.
Serves 4. If you’re lucky.