Edited by: Ellie Sharp, first published in the CAFE newsletter
This time of year I crave hearty, deeply satisfying dishes like shepherd’s pie and baked au gratins. I turn to these and others time and time again, with just one regret: the inevitable stockpile of pots and pans that such recipes require when each component is cooked separately and then combined into a final baking vessel. With snow in the forecast this past week (it eluded us this time – boo!) I was hankering for a hearty, hot soup alternative that wouldn’t put my kitchen cleaning into overdrive. The result was combining the likes of a shepherd’s pie with an au gratin into a single skillet supper.
This meal is exceptionally adaptable and can be tailored to flavor preferences as well as meat or meat-free diets. Once a filling is chosen, it is topped with a starchy vegetable and cheese “crust”. With this basic formula as your guide, the resulting outcomes are truly limitless. Play around with what’s in season, try combining new-to-you ingredients with a familiar base, or switch up seasonings for Tex-Mex, Greek, Asian or Italian flair.
For my first creation, pictured here, I used bacon, leek, shiitake, and cabbage with a rutabaga topping: a true celebration of CAFE offerings these days!
Protein: 1 lb ground meat, 8 oz chopped bacon, 1.5 cups leftover roast meat, OR 1 can of drained beans/lentils
Vegetables: You need roughly 6 cups of chopped vegetables. Ideas include mushrooms, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
Gratin topping: 1 pound starchy root vegetable such as potatoes, rutabaga, turnip, even beets. Slice chosen vegetables thinly with a mandolin.
Seasonings and Herbs: Start with 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, freshly chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Nice additions include tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, wine, etc.
Cream and Cheese for Topping: Save the cream from the top of your raw milk or, as pictured here, the top layer of canned coconut milk. Nut milk might work, too, if you can make it thick enough (give it a whirl). You’ll need about ½ cup of the milk choice and ½ cup of preferred cheese.
In addition to the following specific recipe, here are some combination ideas to get you started:
- Chicken pot pie inspired with chicken, carrots, mushrooms, peas and topped with Yukon gold potatoes.
- Roast pork from the freezer with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and topping with some potatoes and goat cheese.
- Ground beef would do well with spinach or broccoli plus tomato and an addition of tomato paste.
- Lentils! I can’t wait to try this with lentils and some kale topped with turnips.
The possibilities are truly limitless or at least as far as your taste buds and imagination can take you!
Bacon, shiitake, leek, cabbage with rutabaga skillet gratin (pictured recipe):
- 8 ounces bacon, chopped
- 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3 leeks washed and sliced into half moons
- 1 small (or ½ large) cabbage head, quartered, core removed, sliced into ribbons
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 pound rutabaga, sliced thin with a mandolin
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (not shaken and poured from the cream on top)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- If using pre-cooked meat or beans continue to step 3. Otherwise, heat a 10-inch iron skillet over heat and brown the meat. Remove from the pan, place on a plate and set aside. Drain off all but 1 TB fat. Continue to step 4.
- In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat fat of choice.
- Add mushrooms and sauté until they release liquid, about 5 minutes (if using onions, I’d add them at this point too).
- Add remaining chopped vegetables. Season assertively with salt and pepper. Sauté until they begin to cook and become slightly wilted/limp. Remember you will be cooking this in the oven for a time, so the vegetables don’t need to be entirely cooked, just get the process started, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add your herbs, garlic, and any other seasoning of choice at this point.
- Add the cooked meat or protein of choice into the skillet and fold everything together until warmed and combined thoroughly. Turn off the heat.
- Starting with your ragged looking slices (saving the pretty ones for the end) of gratin topping choice, began layering these over the mixture. Continue layering until all the slices have been used. Season with salt and pepper.
- Slowly pour cream over the skillet, taking care to wet each slice and top with cheese, if using.
- Cover your skillet with aluminum foil. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Test your potatoes/topping for doneness by sticking a knife through them. If there is any resistance, continue baking another 5-10 minutes.
- Uncover the dish and bake another 5-10 minutes until the top has browned in spots.
- Let it cool for about 10 minutes while you throw together a salad. Slice and serve!