From the pantry and freezer, an easy weekday shepherd’s pie with moose

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It’s been a little weird at the grocery store lately. Supply chain issues caused by weather and the latest wave of the virus have emptied meat sections and made shelves sparse across the state. Alaskans are ready for that kind of thing. It’s just our culture to put some aside in the pantry and freezer. This recipe leans into those frozen, stable supplies.

Alaska’s historic cookbooks are a lesson in making delicious things from what’s stored, and this moose pie finds inspiration there. It may not end up on the cover of “Food & Wine,” but it’s hard to resist on a dark January night.

This is an inexpensive and relatively quick version of shepherd’s pie that uses the staple of canned scalloped potatoes on top. You can also make your own topping with fresh potatoes, but that takes longer and, to me at least, those dried potatoes taste nostalgic and salty. If you can’t get cream, use more broth or vice versa. My Aunt Ruth, who tested this recipe for me, suggested I add jalapeños to the filling and goat cheese to the potatoes. Other family members suggested another box of potatoes. Do not hesitate to play.

If you don’t have access to moose, this recipe can be made with other ground game, beef or lamb. For meats other than game, I recommend browning them separately so you can control the amount of fat in the pie. If using a meat substitute, taste it before adding salt. This recipe also makes plenty, enough for 6-8 people, so cut it in half for a smaller diet. (Brown bits around the edges are best!)

Freezer and Pantry Moose Pie

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 chopped yellow onion

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 large carrots, diced

1 bay leaf

1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 pounds moose burger

½ teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup half and half

¾ cup frozen corn kernels

¾ cup frozen peas

2 (5 ounce) cans scalloped potatoes, any flavor, prepared with milk, water, and butter, following “stovetop” directions.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425. Pour olive oil into the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and place the skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, thyme and bay leaf, sauté until onions soften. Add ground meat, sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes. (At this point, if you can multitask, you can start your canned potatoes in a pot on another burner.) Add salt, pepper, tomato paste and Worcestershire. Stir to combine with the meat. In a small bowl, beat the cornstarch with the broth until it forms a slurry. Pour the mixture with the meat, stir, heat the liquid until it bubbles, then remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in half and half, corn and peas. Leave the mixture in the Dutch oven or skillet, or pour it into a buttered 13×9-inch lasagna pan. Cover with a layer of potatoes au gratin. Bake for 25 minutes, then broil the top for 2-3 minutes to brown the top a little.


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