The Food Almanac: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Shepherd's Pie Day!

 

In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter The New Orleans Menu notes food facts and sayings.

Days Until. . . 
Christmas--14
New Year's Eve--20

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
Breathtaking Roast Beef Poor Boy @ Liuzza's By The Track, Esplanade Ridge: 1518 N. Lopez. 504-218-7888. This dumpy neighborhood joint makes a name for itself by adding a brilliant new wrinkle to almost every New Orleans classic it cooks. This simple enhancement of the roast beef poor boy is beyond compare. It starts with a first-class standard roast beef sandwich, with good sliced beef, well made gravy (all made in house) and fresh New Orleans French bread. The magic touch is that the mayonnaise has a substantial horseradish component. This is so good and so obvious that it's amazing nobody thought of it before. It results in the best roast beef poor boy in New Orleans. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans Restaurants. The entire list is here

Today's Flavor
It's Shepherd's Pie Day. A casserole with layers of ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese, it has roots in Greece and the Balkans. There, dishes like moussaka show family connections. In Britain, where the dish is most popular, it's called cottage pie. There, it's often made with lamb or mutton (as you would imagine it would be, given the name). In America shepherd's pie is best known as a dish in the regular rotation in the school cafeteria. Some love it, some hate it. I was in the first category, and have managed to infect the rest of my finicky family with this taste. We start with a layer of corn or squash or something else crunchy on the bottom, then the ground beef (cooked with onions and celery), then mashed potatoes, then a crust of Cheddar cheese. We make it when we have too much ground beef or mashed potatoes in the house. My recipe is here.

Edible Dictionary
Irish stew, n.--A layered, chunky stew made from lamb or beef, potatoes, onions, and sometimes cabbage. It's as often baked in the oven as it is simmered on top of the stove. In its most traditional form, Irish stew is made from neck of mutton, with more potatoes than everything else put together, and baked slowly and moistly enough that there's little if any browning of the meat. Irish stew in America is more often than not a standard beef stew.

Deft Dining Rule #772:
You should never be able to finish an entree of shepherd's pie, moussaka, or lasagna without being made uncomfortably full.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
Dishes baked in layers
Draw many naysayers
But aroma persuades them
And savor parades them.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Savory Creek runs in the shadow of Savory Mountain cast by the rising sun in the Great Basin of Nevada. It's about 260 miles north of Las Vegas. Both Savory features are in the scrubby Toyabe National Forest, crisscrossed by off-road-vehicle trails. Savory Creek runs about twenty miles south until it enters the Little Fish Lake Valley. There is not often an actual lake there, but a damp stream. In fact, Savory Creek itself is dry for most of its run. Savory Mountain's summit is 9453 feet, about 900 feet above its namesake creek. If you find your way out of this unsavory place, dine at the Eureka Cafe in the town of the same name, twenty-nine miles northeast of Savory Mountain.

Dining In The House Of Windsor
Today in 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. She meant more to him than being a king. Not to gainsay that, but we are intrigued by the gourmet possibilities of being a monarch. The expression "eat like a king" is no myth. Even if a serious king had no budget for fine dining, he would still eat as well as he wanted to. What restaurant would present a check to a king? Or fail to show him the utmost hospitality?

People with elevated places in society are commensurately well treated. A physician friend says he finds it ironic, given his substantial success, that he should constantly receive free dinners, bottles of wine, trips, and other offers from companies wooing his attention, patients and friends of patients. The higher up one goes, the easier it is to go even higher, and to enjoy life even more. That thought has never failed to get me going in the morning.

Annals Of Cheese 
James Lewis Kraft was born today in 1874. He founded the Kraft Cheese Company, which renamed itself Kraft Foods in the 1940s. His flagship product was an inexpensive processed cheese with a long shelf life. He named it "American cheese." At first, the public rejected it, but after Kraft sold six million pounds of the stuff to the Army, a taste for it grew. The Depression increased its popularity even more, because of its low price and nutritional value. And it remains everywhere.

Food Namesakes
Our list is dominated by music people today. David Gates, the lead singer of a soft-rock 1970s band called Bread, came out of the oven today in 1940. Tony Basil hit Number One on the pop charts with her song Mickey. . . Today in 1946, the Kay Kyser Orchestra had a top hit with Ole Buttermilk Sky, sung by Mike Douglas, who'd be a talk show host later. . . The creamy-throated vocalist Sam Cooke was shot to death today in 1965. . . Apple, the Beatles' recording company, signed its first outside act today in 1967. The group was calledGrapefruit. . . Sir David Brewster, the inventor of the kaleidoscope, was born in Scotland today in 1791. . . Justin Currie, a singer and songwriter from Scotland, was born today in 1964.

Words To Eat By
"Many are the ways and many the recipes for dressing hares; but this is the best of all, to place before a hungry set of guests a slice of roasted meat fresh from the spit, hot, seasoned only with plain, simple salt. . . All other ways are quite superfluous, such as when cooks pour a lot of sticky, clammy sauce upon it."--Archestratus, ancient Greek writer on food and drink.

Words To Drink By
"I hate things that are diluted—I mean, you don't mix Jack Daniel's with Coke. That's a sin!"--Nikki Sixx, bass player for Motley Crue, born today in 1958.

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