Wine-Friendly Recipe: Sheperd’s Pie (Irish Pub Grub)

Sheperd's Pie, a very wine-friendly dish
San Francisco's Blarney Stone

I tend to prepare this traditional Irish Pub fare in the springtime.  Of course it’s a great Winter dish too, but Spring is when we usually have a surfeit of lamb in our house, and this recipe provides a great way to use every bit of your left-over protein, ensuring the lamb wasn’t sacrificed without good justification.  It does take a bit of time, but places little demand on the skills of a home chef.  In fact, this was a favorite during my bachelor days for its ability to provide several meals during the course of a week – a great return on my investment of an hour in the kitchen.

OK, and its economical too, which means you’ll have more money left for wine.  This dish compliments a wide variety of red wines, from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese to Merlot and even lighter Cabs, if you must.  I find its boldness to be too much even for full-bodied white wines, though it might be pleasant with a full Rosé (think Grenache/Mourvedre) chilled for no more than 20 minutes in your refrigerator.  Oh, it’s also nice with a Guinness. ;-)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs Ground lamb (beef can easily be substituted, though the classic Irish version features lamb)
  • 1 Small brown onion, diced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 Cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste and a touch of sugar)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 Cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots and corn), thawed
  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled (optional) and quartered
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1 Cup cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Add the potatoes and garlic to a large pot of salted and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for ~25 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large pan up to temperature over medium heat, add a bit of oil and once hot, add the onion.  Sauté, stirring, until just beginning to brown, then remove to a plate and add the ground meat to the pan.  Break up the meat as it cooks to obtain a fine consistency, then stir in the flour for a minute or two.  Stir in the broth, and then the salt, pepper, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, onions and mixed vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, ~5 minutes before spreading evenly across the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole dish and set aside.

Set your oven temperature to 375.  Then, drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot.  Add the milk and butter and mash (no chunks) or smash (some chunks) the potatoes.  At the end, stir in the cheddar cheese, if using. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Spread the potatoes evenly over the casserole and bake in your preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden (I sometimes cheat and cut the baking time short with a few minutes of broiler time – but if you choose this shortcut be sure to WATCH the entire time, as it goes from perfect to ruined in 30 seconds!). Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Garlic-Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Confit

This recipe is adapted from one provided by DeLoach Vineyards, one of my favorite producers of Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley.  While I’ve long considered using one of their smaller, vineyard-designated Pinots in my wine club, they are simply too large a producer to be one of the “Boutique” wineries that defines our niche.  But I still encourage you to try these wines – old world style meets new world fruit.  This recipe is ideally suited to Pinot, but would work well with other light or medium-bodied red wines with good acidity – Barbera or Sangiovese come to mind, perhaps even a cool-climate Syrah.

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb Pork Tenderloin
  • 2 T Lemon Zest
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, stemmed and minced
  • 2 Tbsp Rosemary, stemmed and minced
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 4 tsp panko bread crumbs
  • 2+ Tbsp Olive oil

Procedure

Pre-heat oven to 350 and remove tenderloin from refrigerator.  Meanwhile, combine in the bowl of a food processor all remaining ingredients up to the Panko bread crumbs.  With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the contents combine into a thin paste.  Massage the paste into the room-temperature loin.

Heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat for three to four minutes, remove from heat and coat with thin layer of olive oil, then add the tenderloin.  Return to heat and sear on each three sides until golden – 1-2 minutes per side.  Turn the tenderloin to the fourth side and place the skillet into the oven for about ten minutes or until the interior reaches 138 degrees.  Remove from oven, coat with foil or up-turned pan, and let rest for ten minutes before slicing into medallions.

Apple Confit Ingredients

  • 6 Tart green apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup cognac or brandy

Procedure

Peel and core apples and slice into eighths and sprinkle with sugar.  Heat a skillet over medium heat, when warm melt the butter and sauté the  apples until brown and caramelized.  Add the cognac and cook until tender (CAUTION – before adding the cognac, remove the skillet from the heat, as the cognac may flame up.  If it does, simply let it burn off).

Recommended Wines

See my complete list of available Pinot Noirs to compliment this dish.

Asian Salmon (Easy)

This dish can easily over-power any wine you pair it with, and the sauce can easily overpower the salmon!  I’ve adjusted the ingredients to allow the salmon to remain in the limelight, but you may want to adjust further.  Recipe feeds six.

Salmon is one of the more controversial fish you can buy these days.  Mention “farmed salmon” to most foodies and you’ll likely start a fight – the prevailing wisdom being that it’s bad for the environment, cross-breeding with and weakening the wild salmon population and killing off all of the plant and ocean life directly under each salmon pen.  And honestly, the things are huge.

But increasingly, inland aqua farmers are improving their animal husbandry techniques, as you can see on the latest version of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site, where a little browsing will bring you to the phrase – “Salmon farmed on land in “closed” or “contained” farms is a viable alternative that points the way to a more environmentally-friendly future for salmon farming.”   One of our favorites is the sustainably farmed salmon from Scotland’s Loch Duart – it can be nearly as pricey as the wild-caught salmon, but we choose to make the sacrifice despite these tight economic times, as we figure it’s an investment in our daughter’s future.

Ingredients
2 – 2  1/4 pounds Salmon fillet
1/2 Cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 Cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 Cup lemon juice (from ~ 2 medium lemons)
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce or oyster sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Clove garlic, minced fine
1  1/2 Cups panko bread crumbs
Aluminum foil

Procedure
Heat oven to 500.  Line and 8X12 pan with the foil, and coat lightly with olive oil before laying salmon skin-side down.  Whisk together all ingredients except the bread crumbs.  Pour 1/3 of the liquid over the salmon, then with the bread crumbs.  Pour remaining liquid onto crumbs, lifting fish to allow run-off to seep underneath.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes before baking for 20 minutes.

Serve with wilted greens such as spinach sautéed in olive oil, anchovy paste and garlic, or bok choy steamed in soy sauce.

Wine pairings – a light pinot noir, sangiovese, or an aromatic white such as a Riesling, Vermentino, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Bland.  But the best pairing may just be with a crisp rosé of Grenache.