Sunday, October 6, 2013

Farmer's Pie: One More Way to Use Leftovers

Lately I've been trying to do a better job of using leftovers without just reheating the same meal over again. I had some pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes from a meal earlier this week. Since I went with stir-fry to repurpose the leftovers last week, I decided on a combo of pot pie and shepherd's pie for this week, using only things I already had on hand.

First of all, technically shepherd's pie is made with lamb, and if you use beef instead it's called cottage pie. I decided mine should be called "farmer's pie" since it was made with pig!

I added a teaspoon or two of olive oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. I diced up half an onion and a stalk of celery I had in the refrigerator.

When I went to get a clove of garlic to mince, I realized I was out - exactly the reason I like having this minced garlic on hand in the fridge. Just a half teaspoon and we're in business!  

While the onions and celery got tender, I cut the pork into small bite-sized pieces. When I cooked it earlier in the week, I left it a little pink in the center so it was perfect for adding to another dish now without getting overcooked. I set the pork aside for the moment.

Next I found some mixed vegetables in the freezer. I added about a cup to the pan and let them cook to warm up, just a couple of minutes. 

Then I added a couple of tablespoons of flour to the veggies, stirring and cooking for another couple of minutes.

 At this point I would normally have added 2 cups of box chicken broth but I didn't have any on hand. I added 2 teaspoons of chicken base to 2 cups of hot water and added that instead. I turned the heat up to bring it to a boil so it would thicken.

Once the mixture had thickened, I added the pork so it could get heated through. While that happened, I sprayed a couple of dishes with nonstick spray.

I also chopped up a couple of pieces of bacon I spotted when I looked in the freezer for the vegetables, and added it to the pan as well.

I rarely need more than a piece or two of bacon for a recipe. The last time I needed bacon, I cooked up the whole package and just popped what I didn't need into a storage bag and stored it in the freezer. It works well any time I need crumbled bacon for a recipe.

I tasted the mixture for seasoning. Because I used the chicken base instead of broth, I didn't need any more salt. I added a good amount of pepper and thyme for a little more flavor.

Once everything was warm, I poured the mixture evenly into the two dishes.

Then I took the leftover mashed potatoes, divided them evenly in two, and pressed each half into a thin patty to "float" on top of the mixture in the dishes.

 I placed them on the dishes and sprinkled them with paprika to add a little color. (This is pronounced with an extra syllable "pap-a-REEK-a" if you're from parts of the south)

I put the dishes on a baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until they started to bubble around the edges.

I forgot to take a picture of them when they came out of the oven, but they looked essentially the same as this, just a little more golden.

We really liked it and I think this method will come in handy in the winter months.  It would work with leftover chicken, beef or pork and you could also throw in small amounts of whatever veggies are in the fridge or freezer that otherwise would get thrown away.

This particular dish also happens to be healthy, since the meat is lean and there is very little added fat. If I'd used my usual low sodium chicken broth instead of the chicken base it would be even better for you.

Anyway, I count this as a success and look forward to more "pies" this fall and winter!