Apartment Recipe: A Simple End-Of-Summertime Meal

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Just because you live in an apartment community and summertime is a time when you are pulled into so many different recreational directions does not mean you have to forego the delicious taste of a homecooked meal prepared in the kitchen. Here is a recipe that can be completed quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

Doug’s “What-Cha-Got” Cottage Pie

I enjoy cooking with Cast Iron. One of the main reasons is because most of my forays into the kitchen are experimental – a gastronomical quest into the unknown and I have found Cast Iron to be very forgiving. Recently while inventorying all the leftovers in the fridge, I came across many yummy remnants from a weekend of family feasting. Since all the food containers in question passed my highly calibrated smell test for edibility, all I had to do was come up with a meal that would be quick to prepare (easily met since all food had been previously cooked), would blend nicely with complementary flavors, and would look good prior to eating (visual appeal is right up there with taste and texture in my book). Arrayed before me were a couple of bratwursts, half of the meatloaf, a container of beef gravy, two containers of mashed red potatoes with skins, a cup of Italian green beans, a cup of peas and carrots, and appetizer slices of Gouda and sharp cheddar cheese. Now to put it all together into a masterful meal.

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. and by setting the largest burner on your stove to medium heat. In my warmed 12” Cast Iron skillet I added two tablespoons of olive oil to heat the sliced brats and crumbled meatloaf. Once the meats were sizzling, I added a teaspoon of minced garlic. As the meat simmered I the gravy and vegetables were thrown into the mix. I had to nuke the mashed potatoes for a minute and a half to make them pliable. I also included half of a stick of butter in the mashed potatoes because butter makes everything taste better.

Turn off the heat to the stovetop and spread the mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables. Cover the mashed potatoes with cheese slices. I prefer to leave about half an inch between the cheese and the walls of the skillet – I hate scrubbing baked-on cheese from any of my Cast Iron pots or pans. Place the skillet in the oven and heat through for twenty minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to sit for about ten minutes.

I had always considered this to be an American version of the Shepherd’s Pie. I was corrected when I posted the results of the meal on the Cast Iron cooking group I belong to. A European epicurean purist happily informed me that a dish such as this cannot be considered Shepherd’s Pie since that savory is made with lamb or mutton. If made with any other meat, it must be considered “Cottage Pie” instead. Since the meal is based on leftovers in the fridge, What-Cha-Got Cottage Pie has joined the ranks of What-Cha-Got Omelets, What-Cha-Got Stew, and What-Cha-Got Stir Fry as a household staple at the dinner table.

I am not going to brag about how delicious this meal turned out. But I will offer a word of warning. Once you have tasted the dish, do not place your plate on top of your head or your tongue will slap your brain out trying to get back at the food!

Serves a bunch, depending on how hungry they are.

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