Friday, May 14, 2010

South-of-the-Border sass

By Helen Klein

I’ve been cooking long enough to know that pretty much any recipe — other than for baked goods — is eminently malleable.
All you need is to apply the concept from one recipe to a different set of ingredients and, voilá … a whole new dish poses for its close-up.

Take, for instance, one of my family favorites, shepherd’s pie. That stolid British-inspired dish — perfect for a cold winter night — gets South-of-the-Border sass, leaving rainy-day tweeds behind for sunny serapes, thanks to the addition of corn, colored peppers, garlic and tortillas.

Now, I’m not saying to scrap tradition. Rather, I believe that taste buds react favorably when a tried-and-true favorite is upended and updated.

That certainly was true for my Tex-Mex take on a dish that’s heartening and hearty, flavorful but not fabulous.

Topped with homemade mashed potatoes, the dish saluted its country of origin while living large thanks to big flavors such as chili powder, oregano and pepper jack cheese.

If you have leftover mashed potatoes, you can finish this recipe reasonably quickly. Leave yourself about 45 minutes to an hour to pull this one-dish meal together, including oven time.

Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie
Serves six

1-1/2 lb. ground beef
1-2 small colored peppers, cored, seeded and diced
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-oz can kernel corn, drained
2-1/2 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 eight-inch tortillas, or as needed
2 cups mashed potatoes, or more as needed
1-2 tbl. butter, cut into small bits
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray large frying pan with cooking spray, then brown beef in its own fat over medium heat. When beef is browned, add onion, garlic and peppers, and continue cooking till vegetables are soft and golden. Then, add tomatoes, corn, wine and spices and continue cooking, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture is reduced and flavors are combined, about 15-20 minutes.

Place one tortilla at the bottom of a nine-inch diameter casserole. Add one third of the meat mixture, then another tortilla and continue layering until all meat is used. You should end up with meat at the top. Then, add mashed potatoes, spreading across the top until meat is completely covered. Sprinkle with butter and cheese.

Place casserole in oven, and cook until cheese is melted and golden, five to 10 minutes.


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