Beef rib shepherd’s pie

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
beef rib shepherd's pie in pan

Shepherd’s pie is a favorite meal in our house. Typically a casserole of meat, vegetables, and gravy topped with mashed potatoes, it’s comfort food at its finest. It’s also a dish that can take on any number of variations, depending on your mood and what’s in the fridge. For this version, I decided to go decadent by replacing the typical ground meat filling with a beef rib stew simmered in the Paderno 6-quart Slow Cooker.

Part of the magic of a slow cooker is its ability to transform inexpensive but tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth meals. Here we take full advantage of low-and-slow cooking by simmering beef ribs overnight until the meat literally falls off the bone. The simmering liquid is reduced to a luscious gravy, and the whole stew is topped off with a thick layer of Yukon Gold mash. Delicious!

beef rib slow cooker
beef rib filling
assembling shepherd's pie

A few notes:

  • You can easily make the stew portion several days in advance. After slow-cooking the meat, simply cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until needed. When you’re ready to assemble the shepherd’s pie, skim the fat solids off the top and rewarm in the slow cooker on low for 1-2 hours before proceeding.
  • Since the stew is quite rich, I opted to make the mashed potatoes a little leaner by using the potato cooking water instead of a dairy product. If you prefer a more decadent mash, feel free to substitute milk/cream/sour cream.
  • Customize the stew with whatever vegetables you like or have on hand! Mushrooms and peas would be great additions (I’d add them in the last hour of cooking, or during the reheat if you make the stew ahead of time). You can also sub the apple juice for red wine or beer for a different flavor.

Beef Rib Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the slow cooker beef ribs:
  • 5 lbs bone-in beef ribs, cut into single-bone portions
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 c apple juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 75g (1/3 c) unsalted butter
  • 40g (1/3 c) all purpose flour
For the mashed potatoes:
  • 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 in. pieces
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To finish:
  • Chopped chives or scallion greens

Method:

For the slow cooker short ribs:
  1. Season beef ribs generously with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Grill or sear beef ribs on all sides. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sweat onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme for the last couple of minutes.
  3. Deglaze pan with apple juice. Add tomatoes, dijon, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, and bring to a low simmer. Once simmering, remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Once finished grilling/searing ribs, transfer ribs to slow cooker, assembling in an even layer. Pour vegetable and liquid mixture over ribs. Add water so the liquid level falls just below the top of the beef.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bones easily. (At this point you can refrigerate the stew for several days if needed; skim the fat and reheat on low for 1-2 hours when ready to proceed.)
  6. When ready to assemble and bake the shepherd’s pie, remove the bones and bay leaves from the slow cooker and discard. Strain the liquid into a large glass measuring cup. Transfer stew solids to an oven safe pan (I used the Paderno Classic Non-Stick Fry Pan) or casserole dish. Use two forks to shred any large pieces of meat.
  7. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Gradually add the reserved liquid, whisking constantly. Once all the liquid is added, raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and reduced by about 1/3 (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add enough gravy to nearly cover the meat and vegetables (reserve the rest of the gravy for serving).
For the mashed potatoes:
  1. Place the potato pieces in a large pot and add cold water to cover by about an inch. Add several generous pinches of salt.
  2. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, turn heat down to medium low and continue simmering until the potatoes are fork-tender (10-15 minutes).
  3. Drain the potatoes, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
  4. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat. Add the butter. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, adding the reserved water as needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To finish:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and score with the tines of a fork for texture, if desired.
  3. Place pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned and the edges of the filling are bubbling. Garnish with chopped chives or scallions, if desired. Serve with reserved gravy.
beef rib shepherd's pie serving
beef rib shepherd's pie gravy

Homemade ricotta and blistered tomato toasts

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Have you ever tried making cheese? If not, ricotta is a great place to start — it’s one of the simplest cheeses you can make at home and honestly tastes so much better from what you find in the supermarket. And all you need is some milk and an acid!

Although you can make ricotta on the stovetop, this time I used the Paderno 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Using a slow cooker offers a couple advantages. First, it allows for a more gentle heating of the milk (which you can stretch to a few hours if you are busy with other things). Second, it helps maintain a constant temperature once the acid is added.

While most ricotta recipes instruct you to let the acidified milk sit for 5-10 minutes before straining, I learned from a Serious Eats article that the yield and taste of homemade ricotta is vastly improved if you keep the mixture at a higher temperature for 20 minutes. On the stovetop, this means constant heat adjustments and pan babysitting. But thanks to the heat retention of the enamel crock and the precise temperature settings of the slow cooker, this part of the ricotta-making process is simple. Just hit a button and let the slow cooker do the work for you!

My favorite way to enjoy fresh ricotta is on fresh bread; and for these toasts, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread in the Paderno Dutch Oven. Baking bread in a dutch oven is a simple way to mimic the steam ovens commercial bakeries use. The thick walls and tight cover of the dutch oven seal in moisture and heat, allowing the loaf rise to its potential and develop a shiny, crackly crust!

Sometimes I top ricotta toasts with a drizzle of honey or swirl of jam. But during the summer (aka tomato season) you can’t beat blistered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I could honestly eat this any meal of the day — simple perfection!

A few notes:

  • This ricotta recipe is easily doubled; just note that it may take a bit more time initially for the milk to reach temperature.
  • To bake a loaf of bread in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven (with the cover) in the oven while the oven is preheating. Turn your unbaked bread dough onto a piece of parchment and score as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and take off the lid. Transfer the dough, still on the parchment, to the dutch oven and replace the lid. Return the dutch oven to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (or roughly half the baking time); then remove the lid and continue baking the bread until finished.

Homemade ricotta and blistered cherry tomato toasts

Ingredients:

For the homemade ricotta:
  • 4 c whole milk (substitute up to 1/2 c heavy cream if desired)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 ml) distilled white vinegar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt (to taste)
For the blistered cherry tomatoes:
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
To finish:
  • 4 thick slices sourdough or country-style bread, homemade or store-bought
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. For the homemade ricotta: Pour the milk into the slow cooker. Heat, partially covered, until a digital thermometer reaches 185F. This can be done over a few hours on the low or medium setting, or in 30-60 minutes on the high setting. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the sides.
  2. Once the milk reaches 185F, turn off the slow cooker. Add the vinegar and gently stir for about 10 seconds to distribute. Turn the slow cooker back on to the low setting and maintain a temperature of 175-190F for twenty minutes without stirring. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheesecloth and suspend over a large measuring glass or bowl.
  3. After twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the lined strainer. Allow to stand until the excess liquid has liquid has drained off, or until you reach desired texture (less time for a softer ricotta and more for drier). Add salt to the curds and gently stir to distribute. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
  4. For the blistered cherry tomatoes: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and saute until blistered, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste.
  5. Assemble the toasts: toast bread if desired. Spread on ricotta and top with blistered tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and fresh basil leaves.