It’s getting colder, and the trees are putting on their fiery autumnal finery, and children and adults alike are coming home from work and school with rosy cheeks and eager smiles. They know what they want.
And why shouldn’t they? Casseroles are perfect comfort foods, the ingredients themselves lazily spilling over one another in an indolent dog pile of savory goodness.
I realize that might not have been the most appetizing description of a casserole. But think back. One of your favorite meals growing up was probably a casserole. Lasagna, or chicken ‘n cheese ‘n rice ‘n broccoli, or tuna noodle, or some other layered, smothered, mixed-up mess that represented everything that was good about food and family.
Besides the ‘mmmm’ factor, casseroles are also an ideal cornerstone of the feral lifestyle. You don’t need any other sides; veggies and meat can all go crazy in there together. This means that a single dish can last for several meals, without the need of anything additional. For a quick lunch, supper, or snack, a slice on a plate or in a tupperware container to go will do the job in an instant. And to avoid making so much of it that you get sick of it before you get to the end of it, here’s what we did this time around: make TWO SMALLER casseroles instead of one gigantic one, then freeze one of ’em! We froze one in a foil pan to avoid tying up our glass dish.
We’re making sheperd’s pie. Only with pork. (Would that be pigherd’s pie?) Because it’s good, and it’s cheap. And we’re avoiding a couple of the classic American casserole’s nutritional pitfalls with this recipe: 1) instead of binding the ingredients with a cream-of-blargh soup, chock full of your daily required doses of sodium, preservate, and blargh, we’re using the broth from the pork roast, thickened with tomato paste and simmerage, and 2) rather than basing the whole dish around noodles or potatoes or some other plain white starch, we’re going half-and-half with potatoes and turnips, which add a tasty, slightly horseradish-ey bite to the potato mix besides cutting the starch and adding fiber and vitamins.
Note that because of the pork roast, this recipe is not a fast throw-together-at-the-last-minute thing. 1 There is not much hands-on time, but the roast does need all day to cook. BUT, when cooked all day like this, the roast doesn’t need thawing if it’s frozen; it will actually come out more tender! 2
Ready? PIG PIE! Here we go.
First off, you will need a pork roast. Pork butt, aka shoulder, is my go-to cut. I get the biggest one I can find. Figure you’ll want 2 to 3 pounds of meat per 9×13 casserole dish. REMEMBER THAT IF YOUR ROAST IS FROZEN, THERE IS NO NEED TO THAW OR DEFROST. : D You’ll also need four or five carrots, chopped however you like (I like ’em in about 1-inch lengths, about bite size), four or five celery stalks, again chopped as you like (bite-sized chunks again), an onion, quartered, four or five peeled cloves of garlic, smashed, and salt and pepper.
Throw your roast in a dutch oven or crock pot. Then salt it. A good rule-of-thumb is to use a 3-finger pinch of salt for each pound of meat. 3 Throw all your pinches of salt on the meat. Just dump ’em on top of the thing. Then a few shakes or grinds of pepper. How much? Just… throw some on there. Stop worrying so much. Relax. It’ll be fine. Now rub the salt and pepper all over the meat. Just real quick. No need to get into every nook and cranny. Just run your hands over the thing so that there’s not a pile of salt sitting on top.
Now toss your veggies and garlic in on top of the roast. Put the cover on the dutch oven or crock pot. If you’re using a crock pot, turn it on low and leave it all day. If you’re using a dutch oven, turn your oven on as low as you can get without being just on ‘warm’. Mine goes down to 200°F on the dial, so I turn it to that. Now leave it! All day. 6 hours? 8? 10? It really doesn’t matter. It will cook, and it will be delicious.
After your 6/8/10/30 hours are up, turn off the crock pot or take your dutch oven out of the… oven. 4 Start getting your taters ready. Take 2 pounds of turnips 5 and 2 pounds of potatoes. 6 Put ’em in a big pot with plenty of water and start bawlin’ ’em. Keep an eye out so that they don’t bawl over. Go until it’s all really tender, about twenty minutes. Drain ’em and let it all sit a while in the colander.
Now your roast is cooled and done! Huzzahs! My Girl was around for the actual pie assemblage, so we got pretty pictures. : D
Take yer roast, put it on yer cutting board, and shred it, putting it into a bowl as you go along.
Shred with forks. Or with your hands. Seriously, stop worrying so much. There are infinite ways to shred a pig.
Meanwhile, you should have a crock pot or dutch oven filled with greasy brothy goodness and chunks of vegetables. Put it on the stovetop 7 and bring to a simmer. Put a couple of big ol’ dollops of tomato paste in there, and mix it all up good. 8 Simmer until it’s thick and stew-like. Taste it. If it tastes flat, throw a little bit more salt and pepper in there until it tastes rich and meaty.
Mash yer taters. And turnips. They’ve been draining, right? Put ’em in a bowl, toss in a chunk of butter, maybe some sour cream, some pepper… I wouldn’t put in much salt, because the pig & veggie ‘filling’ is going to take care of most of that. Now mash! If you have a masher, great, if not, use a fork or a spoon or something. It doesn’t need to be smooth. I actually prefer a more rustic texture.
Now take yer casserole pans. If you just do one huge casserole, and you have a household of three or less, YOU WILL PROBABLY GET SICK OF EATING THIS 9 and there will still be four pounds of pie staring at you with its little porky eyes every time you open the fridge door. Also, I’m trying to get into the habit of making one freezer meal a week, so that we can have a variety of ready-to-go meals already prepared in the coming months. 10 Armed with this compendium of knowledge and goals, me and My Girl prepared one 9×13″ glass casserole and one similarly sized foil pan, for freezing.
So anyway, GETCHER PANS. Put the meat in there. Just divide it up evenly.
DID I GREASE THE PANS? Do I look like a chef to you? Just dump it in there.
Put some frozen peas on it.
How much frozen peas? Are we doing this again? How much do you like peas? Put as many peas as you think will be tasty and delicious to your mouth. Everyone’s mouth is different. My mouth prefers the measurement of SOME frozen peas in my pig pie. 11
Now open a bottle of wine.
You probably need this as much as I do.
Okay, where were we? You’ve got your veggie stew stuff, right? All thick & hot & ready?
Pour it on.
Oh yeah. Do it like that. Now spread yer turnipey tater mash on there. Spread it good. Yeah, you know you like it.
Quiet, you. Drink some more wine. And put that in the oven. Broil. To make it hot. Hot, baby.
Fine, fine, here you go, delicious piggy pie, eat it. You’re welcome. Jesus. This is why I need to find more shortcuts.
Seriously, though, it is really good. And once you’re done with your intense preparations 12, you’ve got four or five meals in the fridge, plus another whole dish of it in the freezer. You didn’t cook that one, right? I’d just thaw that in the fridge a day or two once you’re ready, cover it with foil, do it on maybe 350° a couple hours, then broil the top to get it all golden delicious.
And I’m spent. The end. Almost. Here’s the index card version.
PIG PIE: Slow cook large pork roast, S&P, chopped carrots, celery, garlic cloves. Cool, remove roast, shred. Boil and mash turnips and potatoes, mash. Simmer carrots and celery in pork broth, add tomato paste. Layer in casserole pork, frozen peas, vegetables in broth, and turnip/potato mash. Broil. 13
EDIT 02/02/14: I’m trying out a new WordPress plugin that does recipe cards. : ) Adding ’em to all my previous rec’s.
- 4-pound pork shoulder (aka 'butt') roast (frozen or thawed, either is fine)
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp cracked pepper
- 5 carrots, sliced into 1-inch lengths (or 2.5 cups baby carrots, sliced in half)
- 4 celery ribs, sliced into 1-inch lengths
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 lbs waxy potatoes
- 2 lbs turnips, peeled and chunked
- 2 Tbsp butter
- .5 cup sour cream
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- .75 cup frozen peas
- Put carrots, celery, and onions in dutch oven or slow-cooker. Rub roast with S&P and put on top of vegetables. Throw in garlic cloves. Cook on low (slow-cooker) or 200°F for 6-8 hours.
- Cover potatoes and turnips with water and boil until tender. Mash coarsely with butter and sour cream.
- Remove roast and vegetables from dutch oven or slow-cooker, reserving the remaining juices. Shred roast and mix with vegetables, then deposit evenly into two 9x13" pans. Top with frozen peas.
- Simmer juices with tomato paste until thick, adding S&P to taste. Pour evenly over meat and vegetables.
- Top casseroles with potato/turnip mash and spread evenly. Broil at 500°F until browned. Let rest 10 min before serving.
- Unless you kept a couple of pounds of cooked shredded pork ready-to-go in the freezer. Which would be an awesome idea. ↩
- Apparently, beef and pork release tenderizing enzymes as they are heated, UNTIL the temperature reaches 122°F. So you want to keep the meat below this temperature for as long as possible. Take a look at this cool article. ↩
- I got the 3-finger pinch from Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Chef. Here’s a picture. It’s easy. Just keep your salt in a jar you can easily reach your fingers into, or pour some into a small bowl to pinch from. ↩
- It still feels odd to be putting an oven in an oven. ↩
- Washed, peeled, chunked. ↩
- Washed, peeled, chunked, unless you’re using those little red potatoes, which is awesome because then you can get the pretty red skin in yer mash there. ↩
- If it was in the crock pot, put it in a pan first, otherwise things could get messy. ↩
- Then IMMEDIATELY TAKE CARE OF THE REST OF THE TOMATO PASTE. This will make the rest of it immediately available for any recipe in a way that will keep indefinitely. Nothing (well, ALMOST nothing) is more demoralizing than having unused ingredients growing mold in the fridge. ↩
- EVEN THOUGH IT IS DELICIOUS ↩
- Future post: Feralizing Your Freezer. ↩
- Exactly SOME. ↩
- …and 3/4 of a bottle of viognier… ↩
- You’ve noticed there are no measurements. That’s because one of the points of this blog is to get you comfortable with eyeballing, estimating, tasting. Making the dish right for YOU. The 3-finger pinch of salt per pound might be too much for some people. Too little for others. Same with the tomato paste I used. MAKE THIS RECIPE YOURS. Go, feraling, live, be free! ↩