TND – Slàinte mhòr!September 17, 2014
For reasons that escape me, and baffle everyone – myself included – I managed to pass out of teen-hood without having ever read a Diana Gabaldon novel. This is shocking and bewildering because the Outlander series is exactly the kind of epic historical sprawl that I devoured in high school. My best guess as to how this situation came to pass is that I read the cover flap, decided that they were all about the Highland Uprising of 1745, and dismissed them out of hand. Despite the fact that I romanticize the Scots as much as the next girl, I find the Highland Uprising wildly depressing because Bonnie Prince Charlie was such an enormous tool, and not even remotely worth the loyalty he demanded and achieved.
My opinions on the worthiness of the erstwhile Prince Charlie have not changed markedly in the years since I was in high school, but as it turns out Diana Gabaldon more or less shares my view point on the Bonnie Prince. Plus, the books are more about the minutiae of life in mid-18th century Scotland than they are about the battle of Culloden. All of which is to say that I have been sucked down the rabbit hole, drunk the Kool-Aid, and am more than three-quarters of the way through the third volume in the series.
This seems topical (err, sort of?) because this coming Thursday Scotland will vote on whether it shall remain a part of Great Britain, or whether after 307 years of union they shall again be an independent nation. Influenced by a steady diet of Diana Gabaldon I found myself pondering not the economic future of Scotland, or what will happen to the nuclear arsenal housed in Scotland, or any of the actual merits of separation versus continued partnership. No, what I found myself contemplating was who the current Jacobean pretender to the throne might be, and whether anyone had considered crowning them with anything.
As it turns out, the Queen will remain the Queen, just the Queen of England and the Queen of Scotland, rather than the Queen of England and Scotland. However, should anyone try to stage another Stuart uprising, I can tell them that they’ll find the current heir quietly pretending to the throne of Bavaria (which has been empty since 1918 when Ludwig III was deposed).
His Royal Highness Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern, the Duke of Bavaria, of Franconia and in Swabia, Count Palatine of the Rhine is the current heir to the Stuart line. However, since he’s currently over 80 and unmarried, determining to whom the Stuart succession will pass upon his demise seemed wise.
Careful research (i.e. Wikipedia) determined that the honor will pass to the eldest daughter of his younger broker, Max (apparently the Stuart succession is not governed by Salic law), Her Royal Highness Sophie Elisabeth Marie Gabrielle. She was born a Princess of Bavaria, and upon her marriage to Alois, Hereditary Prince and Regent of Liechtenstein, also became the Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein, Countess Rietberg.
So now you know.
In preparation for the momentous, and disconcertingly close vote that will occur on Thursday, September 18th, I thought a Scottish inspired meal would be appropriate. Haggis is the obvious choice, however I quite like haggis and suspect this would cease to be true if I actually knew precisely what was in it. Also, I can’t even begin to imagine where you’d source all the requisite innards to make haggis, and I know for a fact that at least one of them is illegal in the US.
With haggis off the table I turned my attention to other Scottish delicacies, and what is more Scottish than a meal replete with alcohol? To that end, a rich cottage pie made with dark beer, served alongside carrots and parsnips glazed with honey and whiskey. To be fair, none of my ingredients were actually Scottish – I used a porter bottled on Nantucket, a whiskey that’s actually a bourbon and from Kentucky, and honey industriously made by Massachusetts bees. However, the spirit of the meal was infused with the traditions and flavors of Scotland.
Whiskey Glazed Carrots & Parsnips
(serves 4 – I doubled it)
It’s cottage pie if it has ground beef in it, shepherd’s pie if you use ground lamb . . . barnyard pie if you use ground turkey?
I did contemplate adding sweet corn to my cottage pie, because the modern Scot (much like the modern Brit, Frenchman, or German) labors under the misapprehension that canned sweet corn should be added to everything – pizza, chicken tikka masala, tuna salad, cheese sandwiches . . . What I find particularly peculiar about this predilection is that nobody in Europe wants to eat corn the way that God intended – farm fresh and off the cob – they only want to eat it from a can.
Note – If you double the recipe, you don’t need to double the amount of liquid. Generally I figure on a scant 1 ½ times the amount of liquid when doubling a recipe like this (i.e. I used 12 oz beer + 12 oz water/stock).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ lb mushrooms, thinly diced
1 large onion, diced
3 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup dark (porter) beer
1 cup water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen peas (optional – I meant to add them, but forgot and nobody missed them)
1 lb potato, thinly sliced (between 1/8″ and 1/16″)
Handful (1/2 cup?) sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
You can either show off your knife skills by finely dicing a gigantic pile of mushrooms, carrots, and onions. Or, you can make your life easy and use the food processor to do it for you. I used the food processor – pulse the vegetables in batches until they are finely chopped.
In a large heavy pot saute the meat, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until it starts to brown and is no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.
In the same pot melt a little butter and saute the mushrooms until they give up & then reabsorb their liquid and start to brown. Transfer to the bowl with the sautéed ground beef. Melt a little more butter and saute the onion, garlic, and carrots until onion softens. Stir in the dried thyme and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for a minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onion carrot mixture and stir to combine well.
Add the mushrooms and beef back to the pan, and stir to combine. Add the beer and chicken stock/water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Season to taste with salt/pepper, and if desired balsamic and brown sugar. Stir in peas.
This can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight. Bring back up to a simmer on the stove before proceeding. If you make it in advance wait to add the peas until you are just about to bake it.
Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Top with potatoes, overlapping slices (overlap them quite closely). Season potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 Tbsp melted butter – making sure that all the potato slices are coated. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake for a further 15 minutes – at this point the potatoes should be tender and the cheese crusty and browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Whiskey Glazed Carrots & Parsnips
Okay, I cheated and used bourbon, because the whiskey that’s in our house is very nice whiskey and somewhat too expensive to be used as a glaze for carrots. Turns out that if you drown parsnips in enough honey and whiskey, even people who don’t like parsnips will cheerfully eat them.
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp honey
½ cup whiskey (or bourbon)
2 lb carrots, peeled & cut into 2” x ½” sticks
1 lb parsnips, peeled & cut into 2” x ½” sticks (cut out any woody cores)
Combine the butter, honey and whiskey in a saucepan and heat to melt the butter. Add the carrots and parsnips and stir to coat. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, cover with a round of parchment paper, and the cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the vegetables are tender. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid forms a thick glaze. Season to taste with salt/pepper.