Cottage Pie with Ale Part 2 of my Car Cooking Pub Crawl
On a recent trip, I found myself walking into a truck stop—one with a huge Pilot Travel Center attached to the mini-mart. Cruising the aisles, I found 12-volt heaven tucked between tortilla chips and CB radios! This is where I discovered cooking appliances that simply plug straight into the car’s cigarette lighter (12 volts): popcorn makers, skillets, pizza ovens, portable refrigerators, Crock-pots, and the holy grail, the 12 Volt Lunch Box Stove. This modified lunch box heats to 300°F | 149°C, is lightweight and simple to use—just plug it in and it gets hot. I decided to use this Lunch Box Stove to cook a multi-course meal, but instead of serving it at a table, why not use the car as my kitchen and make it a Pub Crawl, all at the same time!
Second Stop: Cottage Pie with Ale, Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant in Novato. I met with Denise Jones, Brewmaster at the time, in the bar with a piping hot cottage pie cooked in the portable 12 Volt Lunch Box Stove after an hour-long drive from San Francisco. Denise had just returned from vacation and took a break to have a bite with me. Smelling the Cottage Pie with Ale, she poured a sampling of Moylan’s Irish Red, Scottish Ale, and Dragoons Dry Irish Stout on nitro to pair with lunch. “I think these three beers pair really well, especially cooking with them and/or pairing with this traditional pub fare. The only drawback to the stove is the pie is missing that crisp caramelization of cheese.” I suggested a portable torch, such as the Searzall | Handheld Broiler would be the key to finish it up. “One more thing to bring on the road,” Denise chuckled. “It’s kind of fun.”
My concept for this Cottage Pie Recipe was to go Traditional, with a Pub Style, using my Cooking with Beer technique to incorporate beer into the crust and the filling of this Irish | English classic recipe. Instead of just using potatoes, I add sweet potatoes or yams, to increase the flavor, with some added nutritional elements. To highlight these flavors, I use a Scottish Ale, to add a rich malty flavor, full of caramel, toffee, and a syrupy like sweetness, that accentuates the sweet potato | yam natural essences. This Potato | Yam | Scottish Ale topping could be used instead as a mash or starch to a plate. Served with grilled meats or vegetables, beer-braised protein, or beer poached fish.
In the filling, I incorporated an Irish Red Ale, to create a rich Beer Gravy, that binds the vegetables and browned ground beef together. This beer style brings flavors of bread, toast, and malt, yet, as this brew has a lower bitterness or IBU (International Bittering Unit) level, with fewer hops added to the kettle. These flavor attributes enhance the dish, adding some of that Irish | English cuisine esthetics to each bite.
This recipe for Cottage Pie with Ale is different than my Lambs Shepherd’s Pie with Ale. Shepherd’s Pie is always made with lamb and Cottage Pie is made with beef. The rest of the ingredients and composition of the recipe is very similar. I do suggest buffalo or bison as they are very similar animals, as an alternative to ground beef, lower in fat, and full of flavor.
This recipe may be doubled or tripled if cooked in a conventional oven to feed a crowd.
Add Yukon Gold potatoes and yams to a medium pot, covering with cold water. Place over a high flame, adding salt and cook for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the water and use either a potato ricer or a masher and blend until smooth. Mix in butter, ale and whipping cream, seasoning with salt and black pepper. The consistency should be that of firm mashed potatoes. Set aside.
Cottage Pie Filling Directions:
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add butter and olive oil. Once the butter has melted add ground buffalo (or other meat) to the pan, using a spoon to break up any clumps of meat, cooking until there is no pink left and the meat is browned evenly. Remove meat from the pan into a bowl, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Add the carrots, onions, celery and leeks, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the reserved meat, thyme, parsley, and ale, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any fond. Once the liquid comes to a boil, stir in the stock and bring back to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the ale and stock form a gravy-like sauce. Check the seasoning.
To assemble, place the meat mixture into the loaf pan and spoon the potato-yam mixture evenly over the top. Next, take the grated cheese and distribute it in a single layer. Refrigerate until ready to cook. This can be made 24 hours in advance.
12 Volt Lunch Box Stove: Place the loaf pan uncovered into the portable stove and lock the lid. Plug into the cigarette lighter and cook about 1 hour. Since the pie is already cooked, it just needs to be warmed throughout. As the Lunch Box doesn't heat above 300°F | 149°C, it can hold at this heat for at least another hour, before consuming.
Standard Oven: Preheat to 350°F | 177°C. Place the Cottage Pie with Ale in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese has melted and started to turn a nice golden brown color and the filling has started to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.