Let me just say, this culinary experience was a disaster before I even got to the kitchen, so I‘ll start at the beginning.
The recipe calls for a can of mushroom gravy. I purchased reduced salt mushroom soup instead.
It also calls for cayenne pepper. I used New Orleans Cajun seasoning because I couldn’t find cayenne pepper on the shelf of the first grocery store I went to.
How different is soup from gravy, really? And what the heck is cayenne pepper anyway? The Cajun seasoning is red too, so they must be similar.
Despite some hesitance to use the wrong ingredients, I began to follow the instructions with my improvised ingredients at about 9:45 p.m. the night before TNL’s deadline. There was no going back and no tomorrow.
The first part of the recipe was easy enough; I just had to chop about three large potatoes into small cubes and boil them for 20 minutes.
I did fear the loss of my fingers, but managed to find that slicing potatoes into round, vertical pieces was the best method for dicing with caution (by dicing, I mean slicing very slowly).
Then I dropped the potatoes into a pot of boiling water and, being the oh-so-proactive person I am, decided to mix other ingredients while I waited for them to cook.
This is where disasters three and four happen.
Rather than conserving the margarine and milk for some good ol’ fashion mash’a taters, I combined the two with all the other ingredients.
What’s a girl to do?
I let it go. I added another measurement of milk and margarine to a large bowl and accepted I would have twice as much of both in this meal.
This is where mistake five happens, and it’s a biggie.
I began shuffling around the kitchen looking for a baking pan to put the innards of my shepherd’s pie in.
After some searching around, I realized I don’t have one.
Remember: The potatoes are boiling, the milk is setting into my veggies and it’s the night before deadline. The show must go on.
So, I grabbed a piece of foil (which I had to pull off an unused kitchen shelf because I was out of foil too) and made a ‘pan’ of it. I placed said pan onto a pizza pan and filled it with all the ingredients, aside from the potatoes. It worked … quite well, actually.
Then, I pulled the potatoes off the stove and drained them. The problem is, the steam from boiling potatoes is very, very hot, so keep arms and face away from the steam.
I guess that can be considered disaster six, so moving right along to disaster seven; I have no idea how to mash a potato, or what to mash it with.
However, I found my solution with two forks. The task was time-consuming and made my wrists and fingers hurt, but in about ten minutes, I had homemade mashed potatoes.
Adding the potatoes into the makeshift pan was tricky. The pan was already straining to contain my soupy mixture. Adding potatoes on top was like asking it to overflow, and it almost did. But, somehow, I managed to carefully move the concoction from the top of the stove to the oven.
Then I waited.
I mostly sat at the dining table, writing this article and half-expecting the oven to reveal smoke from crusted, burned mushroom soup upon opening, but my patience was rewarded. The pie was done in about 50 minutes.
It was here I realized I forgot to add salt to those mashed potatoes. Minor problem, though. I just added some on top.
Now, the pan didn’t exactly hold up 100 percent, but it wasn’t a complete failure either. Only small amount of my shepherd pie filling actually spilled onto the oven.
The taste wasn’t terrible either.
And while the whole recipe cost is approximately $25, it should last me four or five meals.
Despite that, a negative I will point out is the time it took to prepare. It took a little over two hours to make.
That time commitment is a bit off-putting. But I have a feeling the lengthy time has a lot to do with how slowly I cut the potatoes, the time it took to makeshift a pan and the time it took to carefully balance my ingredients into the “pan.”
The recipe can be completed faster without those barriers.
As a plus, the food really is delicious.
I credit the mushroom soup, mostly because it’s my little piece of ingenuity.
Start to finish: approximately two hours
3 large potatoes
2 tbsp. Margarine
I/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1-pound bag of Morningstar Farms brand burger crumbles (A pound of meat can also be substituted, but at the cost of high saturated intake)
1 can mushroom gravy
1 can mixed peas
1 can mixed carrots and carrots, drained (I increased this to 2 1/2 cups of a frozen veggie blend)
garlic powder and cayenne pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F
Boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender, then drain and mash with margarine, milk, salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, mix other ingredients together.
Pour all ingredients into baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are brown.
(Recipe modified from peta.org)