Thursday, January 7, 2010

Betsy Who Cried Wolf: Shepherd's Pie

As a special treat, I am posting this for you from my vacation retreat in Florida! Hooray!

I really need to stop apologizing for everything, but I really am not meaning to go so far between postings.  It's a New Year's Resolution that I will get more posts up than I have been.  Let's see how that goes.

Gail Carson Levine, author of such awesome books as Ella Enchanted, came out with her first picture book in 2002, and I - being behind the times - just discovered it.  It's called Betsy Who Cried Wolf, and it's all kinds of awesome.  In this variation of the classic folktale, 8-year-old Betsy has just graduated from Shepherding School, and she has taken the Shepherd's Oath.  "She was going to be the best shepherd in Bray Valley history," we are told.  "And any wolf who tried to eat her sheep had better watch out!"

There was only one wolf left on the mountain at this point, and he - Zimmo - knew that the odds were against him, and he had to be smart.  He had to use his sneaky wolf brain.  So what he did was (and this is really very clever), he showed himself, and let Betsy blow her whistle - but he was hidden by the time the townspeople came up to help.  Betsy got a lecture.  Later that day, he came out and Besty blew her whistle - but again, Zimmo was hidden when the townspeople came to help.  The townspeople thought that maybe Betsy wasn't ready to be a shepherd after all, and they made her go take a refresher course at the Shepherd School.

When Zimmo again comes out, and Betsy blows her whistle, nobody comes to help! - but she is determined to show that she can take care of her sheep.  But when she gets up to throw her dinner (shepherd's pie) at him, she realizes how skinny he is, and gives him the pie to eat instead.  Then later, when she needs help with her sheep, Zimmo helps her out, and they become friends.  Eventually, he takes the shepherd's oath, too, and gives up his wolfy ways.

Shepherd's pie is not a pie in the way that most people think of it - that is, there is no bottom crust, and the top crust is mashed potatoes, and I usually make it in a square casserole dish.  But it is very tasty, not too hard to make, and doesn't even cost that much in ingredients.  Of course, the variations you can make with this are endless.  Many people make their's with a tomato base, but mine - at least this time - doesn't have that.

Betsy The Shepherd's Pie
4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp. butter
splash of milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion
1 lb. ground beef
3/4 cup beef broth
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups frozen veggies - I used peas here, but carrots and corn are also good

1. Boil salted water and add the potatoes; cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain, add the butter and milk, and mash, adding salt and pepper to taste. Alternately, use leftover or otherwise pre-made mashed potatoes.  Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large skillet, heat the oil.  Dice the onion and add that to the pan, cooking over medium heat until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). 
3. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until brown.  Drain the fat, and add the beef stock, flour, and vegetables, stirring until the flour is dissolved.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
4. Fill a 2-quart casserole with the beef mixture, then layer with mashed potatoes, being careful to get all the way to the edge of the pan with the potatoes.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

Because the pie is covered in potatoey goodness, it will look like this when you take it out:

And then the slices... well, they're hard to get to look nice.  My best piece looked like this:

which is not the most appetizing-looking meal on the planet, but once you taste it, you won't care.

Fun side note: if you use lamb instead of beef, this dish is called Cottage Pie.  If I spent my days taking care of sheep, though, I'd probably prefer the beef for dinner.


  1. Awesome!! I've been meaning to make Shepherd's Pie...both my boyfriend and my dad have been requesting it. I'll give this recipe a try. Yours came out looking great!

  2. I've just found you via the book dragon - can't wait to read through more of your posts. In the meantime have you see this:

  3. So cool!!! Thanks for the link! :)

    I'm going to try to make a bunch of stuff tomorrow to put up over the next few days - time just keeps getting away from me and I never have time to post!
    Glad you like the blog! Email me if you have questions, comments, suggestions, etc.

  4. So, your entire concept for this blob is entirely adorable and 100% perfect. I love what you've done here: a creative, personal, and accessible blog. :-)