Playoffs! I don’t care that you resolved to lose ten pounds just days ago, it’s the playoffs! This is the last time you can eat copious amounts of fat and fried things without regret until next season! I am going to use as many exclamation points as necessary to convey how important snacking is to your life for the next month!!!
The playoffs determine which foods you will consider “lucky” going forward. Your team wins this weekend, whatever you ate and drank during that game is the EXACT SAME THING you make until your team loses. Eat a kale wrap with sliced almonds, golden raisins with a lemon vinaigrette when the Chargers upset the Bengals? Lucky you! You’re having kale for the next two weeks, at least. Leftover pho when Niners beat the Pack? Better start eating pho all week so you have enough leftovers for your friends the following week. Gravy with a side of gravy, followed by a slice of sugar pie? Well, you’re already pretty happy with that menu Colts fans, win or lose. Choose your playoff snacks and rituals carefully fans, because you have to do them over and over again. By the Super Bowl, you should have your menu perfected.
Your team isn’t in the playoffs? Yeah, neither is mine. But don’t let rooting interests get in the way of a good excuse to drink beer and cook your way through the weekend. If anything, you can relax and enjoy the games for a change, no pressure. Dare I say football almost becomes leisurely and enjoyable when your heart isn’t hanging on every down.
Almost. We’re obviously still hate-watching all the other teams.
Shepherd’s Pie Potato Skins
A quick note before we get to this week’s recipe. This season Foodball featured not just one, but two recipes featuring za’atar, Zesty Za’atar White Bean Dip and Grilled Za’atar Chicken Pitas. The Kommentariat responded enthusiastically to both recipes and even posted their own tips for working with this spice mixture. This week Bon Appetite named za’atar one of the hot new food trends for 2014. Coincidence? I choose to believe the KSK Kommentariat moved the needle on this one.
So if two food items can be a trend, and I already posted a recipe for Poutine Potato Skins, then yes. Potato skins are something everyone loves for football watching. And as delicious as sour cream, cheese and bacon are in a twice-baked potato, they tend to feel heavy on your stomach pretty quickly. Surprisingly though, filling the potato with beef, vegetables and more whipped potatoes makes your potato skins more like a meal, and not as greasy and weighty.
You will need:
3 pounds medium-sized Russet potatoes
Vegetable or canola oil (Cooking oil spray or regular oil works just fine)
1 – 1 1/4 pounds ground beef, preferably 80% lean ground chuck
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably tomato paste concentrate
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and cracked pepper, about a 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of each
2 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4-1/2 cup milk
Scallions for garnish, one or two stalks should be fine
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Since I’m not going to top the instructions I wrote in my Poutine Potato Skins recipe for properly making a potato boat that will hold up to whatever you stuff into it, I’m just going to repeat my previous directions, making a few changes for our shepherd’s pie variation.
Rinse and brush clean the potatoes while the oven is heating. Dry the potatoes and then stab them all over with a knife so they don’t explode while baking. (If you’re anything like me, you re-enact the kitchen galley scene from ALIENS except unlike Bishop, you don’t cut yourself. And you’re not an artificial person. Probably.) Either brush or spray with oil until the potatoes are lightly greased.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until softened all the way through. Once done, remove from the oven and rest until cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes in half and carefully scoop out the inside of the potatoes. Reserve the potato innards for our shepherd’s pie topping.
Lightly brush or spray both the outside and inside of the newly formed potato boats with oil and bake skin side up for 10 minutes and then turn them over and bake for 10 more minutes. This gives you a nice, sturdy potato vessel for stuffing.
See? That plagiarizing oneself isn’t so painful. Back to our shepherd’s pie version.
While the potatoes are baking, start to cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium, adding a touch of oil if necessary. (Hopefully though you’re using a beef blend with enough fat content you will not need to add extra oil.) Once your beef nearly completely browned, add the diced celery, carrots, onions and one 1 tablespoon of butter and cook down. When your beef is completely browned and your vegetables have softened, reduce the heat slightly and stir in the tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes and then remove from the heat and set aside until your potato vessels are done baking.
Meanwhile, take the still warm potato innards and place them in a large bowl. Mix in the shredded cheese until melted and whip in the remaining butter and add milk until desired consistency is reached. Personally, I prefer to use my hand mixer for this job so I get nicely smooth potatoes I can pipe with a a pastry bag or a plastic bag, cutting off a corner to form a pastry bag, but if you want to spoon the potatoes out as your shepherd’s pie lid, you can.
Once your potato boats are done baking, reduce the oven temperature to 350º. Evenly fill with the ground beef and vegetables and then top with your whipped potatoes. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the whipped potatoes get a nice golden crust. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve.
These meaty little shepherd’s pie bites are so easy to make, serve and eat, you may never go back fussing with making them in a pie crust base again. And if you really want to give them a little more bite, use a blend of ground lamb and beef.
Worried about doing this much baking the day of the game, especially once this becomes your lucky snack for the rest of the playoffs? You can assemble your shepherd’s pie potato skins the day before, refrigerate and then bake as normal, just add 10-15 minutes more to their time in the oven so they properly heat the entire way through.