In the spirit of the day, Ben and I enjoyed a Shepherd's pie on St. Patrick's day - along with a gluten free beer, dyed green. One part simple, classic and one part kitschy.
Earlier in the week, we made colcannon from sweet potatoes, thinly sliced onion, and shredded cabbage. We seasoned it with salt and pepper. I had to hold back from making either of these dishes more complex - adding cheese, or maybe some finely diced apples and a dash of nutmeg. Or perhaps some thinly-sliced, spicy sausage.
I managed to refrain from over-doing it, however, because I wanted to stay at least somewhat true to the simple spirit of Irish food. And, I'm glad I did.
I did make them a bit healthier, mind you, by substituting out the plain white potatoes for sweet potatoes (not yams!) in the colcannon and for quinoa flakes in the Shepherd's pie. Those of you who know true Shepherd's pie will notice I also opted for chicken instead of beef.
There's something to be said for simplicity. The feel of the newspaper or a good book in your hands feels so much more real than the electronic typeface on a glowing screen. Speaking of, I actually had to keep myself from giggling the other day on my walk home from work -- Every day I walk passed the same woman who is reading a book while she walks. She walks very quickly and doesn't look away from her pages. I always wonder if she would trip one day.
This past week, however, I saw her coming and looked to see what book she was reading. However she did not have a book in her hands, but a Kindle. For those of you who don't know, a Kindle is a small electronic device to which you can download books and read them on the device. Now I wonder what she is missing out on by not having the feel of the pages in her hands.
I am in the home-stretch right now as far as my dissertation is concerned, so I am going to be taking a break from posting here for a bit. Don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I will be finishing up that final draft, which I will hand to my committee 3 weeks before my dissertation defense.
Potato-free, gluten-free chicken shepherd's pie:
2/3 cup quinoa flakes
1 3/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoons ground thyme
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons tapioca flour
In a small saucepan, bring the water to boil and add quinoa flakes. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cook for a few minutes more, then remove from heat and stir in butter and salt. Allow to cool (the mixture will thicken a bit as it cools).
In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften. Stir in ground thyme, salt, and pepper. Add peas and chicken and cook until heated through. Turn heat to low and cover.
Meanwhile, add your chicken broth and tapioca flour to a small saucepan and stir to dissolve flour. Bring the mixture to heat, over medium-high heat and allow to boil for a few minutes, stirring nearly constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until it begins to thicken.
Add the broth mixture to the vegetable pan and mix well. Turn off heat.
Butter the sides of 2 16-oz souffle dishes or a small casserole dish. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the dishes. Spoon the "potato" mixture on top of the vegetables, creating a 'crust' that covers the entire surface of the vegetables. Dust with paprika (optional).
Place the dishes under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the tops and 'set' the dish.
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