A few years ago, we got a rare day off of school due to inclement weather. My best friend and I lived just across the street from each other so we decided to celebrate with a dinner party. With the grocery stores closed, we pooled the ingredients we each had and came up with a dish we called Mountain Pie. It was reminiscent of shepherd’s pie and cottage pie, but we made it with ground buffalo meat because that’s what I had in my freezer at the time, and some sweet potatoes and yellow potatoes because we didn’t have enough of one potato type to make enough of a topping. I can’t recall why we named it Mountain Pie, seeing as buffalo don’t live in the mountains, but regardless, this dish pays tribute to that Mountain Pie and to my friend.
I modified our bare bones but delicious creation to make it a little more wholesome. For one, I reduced the meat by half and replaced it with seasoned bulgur which gives a nice texture similar to ground meat and provides fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. If you're not familiar with bulgur wheat, it's the little grain that appears in tabbouleh. I deepened the flavor with miso paste and tamari. The top is just a tad crunchy, with a smooth underbelly, and the filling is stick-to-your-ribs good. I hope you enjoy!
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. miso paste (I used red, but any will do)
1 T. tomato paste
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
3/4 c. bulgur wheat
Vegetable and Meat Filling:
1 T. unsalted butter or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 carrots, scrubbed clean or peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef or buffalo, preferably local, grass-fed, and/or organic
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. low sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 T. balsamic vinegar or red wine
2 T. whole wheat or oat flour
1 1/2 c. beef stock or water
1 c. frozen peas, thawed or still frozen
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste
Begin with the bulgur. Place 1 1/2 c. water in a pot and whisk in 1 T. tomato paste and miso paste. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add bulgur. Cover and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
For the meat filling, heat butter or olive oil in ovenproof skillet measuring about 12 inches across over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and ground meat to skillet, and break into pieces. Again, sprinkle with a little salt. Cook the meat until brown. Add the tomato paste, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and flour. Stir to combine, scraping any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the stock or water, peas, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to develop some flavor while the liquid is being absorbed and the meat and carrots soften.
Meanwhile, prepare the potato topping. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the potatoes in a pot, and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and then simmer, cooking for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes, and add them back to the pot. Add the sour cream, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan, and a sprinkle of salt and mash until mostly smooth.
When the beef has cooked, remove the thyme and rosemary from the bulgur, and add the mixture to the beef in the skillet, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Smooth the mashed potatoes over top of the filling and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the broiler to high and broil for 8-10 minutes or until the crust turns a slight golden color. Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8 people.