A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for an apple, cheddar, ale, and potato soup fit for a stop at a fairy tale cottage, and just last week, I posted a recipe for a simple breakfast hash. In any story I read, I am always drawn to the descriptions of warmth and comfort, and I am always trying to recreate that feeling of magical coziness at home.
This week, I offer up some heartier fare in the form of a recipe my husband and I developed a few years back. It’s our version of Forager’s Pie. Based on the more famous Shepherd’s Pie, this version stars mushrooms, and is the result of some study and research. We started at Whole Foods, which at the time was promoting different mushrooms with informational flavor guides, and figured out how to combine mushrooms to get the most savory flavor we could.
We also looked at several Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, and mashed potato recipes in cook books and across the internet, studied the The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, and learned from the educational asides in a mushroom-barley soup recipe in a 2011 Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. If you’re looking for a legit Forager’s Pie recipe from a dedicated food blogger, check out The Vanilla Bean Blog’s version. Hat tip to Vanilla Bean author Kristy Carlson for her reference to hobbits within the recipe and her inclusion of the word “soliloquy” in her blog’s title tagline. It’s a wonderful site, and I’m excited to try her Pumpkin-Spice Braided Brioche Knots ASAP.
Though finding Carlson’s recipe would have saved us time, I’m glad that my husband and I took the time to forage through a grocery stores and simplify things as we tested our work and learned about cooking and our own tastes. We ended up with a cozy, hearty, mushroomy meal. And now, I’ll share it with you. So pull up a chair, pour out some ale, and enjoy some Forager’s Pie.
- Mixer (standing/hand) or potato masher
- Mixing Bowl
- Large pot
- Large saute pan
- Cutting Board
- Chef’s Knife
- 9×9 baking dish (or similar size)
For the Potatoes:
- 4 to 5 Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced to roughly 1/2 inch
- 1.5 to 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Roughly 1/2 cup of milk (if you use almond milk or skim, you’ll want to up the butter a bit and reduce the liquid, and if you use half and half or cream, you won’t need as much butter)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1/2 a medium sized onion)
- 2 large carrots, diced small
- 2 stalks of celery, diced small
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lb Cremini mushrooms, chopped (remove stalks)
- 1/4 lb Royal Trumpet mushrooms, chopped (you can substitute shiitake mushrooms if the Royal Trumpets are hard to find)
- 1/2 pack dried Porcini mushrooms
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup Mushroom Stock (any stock will do, but I prefer stock without any tomato flavoring for this recipe; if using vegetable stock, check the ingredients, or potentially make your own)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Rosemary
- 1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme
- 1/2 cup of frozen peas
- 1/2 cup of frozen corn
1. Wash and chop all produce: potatoes, Cremini and Royal Trumpet mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, carrots, celery, onion, garlic. Measure out all other ingredients. In the spirit of fairy cottage cooking, don’t worry too much about neatness or precision. Aim for a rustic Mise en Place.
2. To reconstitute the Porcini mushrooms, bring mushroom stock to a boil. Soak the dried mushrooms in the stock until they’re pliable and full sized. Then remove the mushrooms, and reserve the liquid (Cooks Illustrated recommends straining the liquid through a coffee filter, but I confess that I always this step and it turns out just fine). Complete your mise en place by chopping the mushrooms small.
3. To prepare your mashed potatoes, place the diced potatoes into a large pot with half the butter (about a tablespoon) and a dash salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to med-low. Simmer until soft for about 10 minutes, and check the texture. You will likely need another 5-10 minutes, but you want to make sure you don’t over cook the potatoes. They should be just mashable, not mushy.
4. You may be tempted to skip ahead to Step 6 here while the potatoes cook, but be careful not to forget about them! Because you’re baking the potatoes later on, its important not to overcook them now. If you’re a skilled cook, forge ahead. If you’re a novice like me, proceed with caution.
5. To finish the potatoes, place them in mixing bowl with half of the cheese, the remaining butter, another dash of salt, and half the milk. Mix and mash until smooth, adjusting the consistency with the remaining milk and adding salt to taste.
6. Preheat over to 400 Degrees F.
7. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, and add onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent, and then stir in garlic, cremini, and royal trumpet mushrooms. Salt and Pepper the mixture, and cook until lightly browned.
8. Once browned, sprinkle the mixture with the flour and stir to coat, then add porcini mushrooms, reserved mushroom stock, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme.
9. Stir, bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to low. Cover and simmer for about 10-12 minutes until thickened. This doesn’t need a ton of attention, so feel free to start cleaning up after yourself during this time, checking the consistency occasionally so it doesn’t dry out too much.
10. Add the frozen corn and peas, and stir until everything is combined.
11. Pour mixture into you baking dish and, starting at the edges, top with the mashed potatoes. Spread the potatoes smooth with a spatula, seal the edges, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
12. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. To brown the top, move the baking to the broiler for roughly 2 minutes – but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
And that’s it! Serve hot and enjoy with a side of crusty country rolls or Irish Soda bread, and, if you like, a hearty ale.