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EA Hanks' Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

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I have such a fear of being that vegetarian: the one who shows up at a dinner party or holiday feast and realizes that there is nothing for me to eat. That is also known as the "Starving Vegetarian," or the "Really Quite Put Out Vegetarian." I try to do my due diligence, and let hosts know ahead of time about my dietary restrictions, even offer to provide my own dish if they don't have the time or inclination to provide one for me. This is known as being the "Not Completely Obnoxious Vegetarian."

When a host does ask me to bring my own dish, I'm not too annoyed: it's another excuse to make my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie, which I will certainly be doing this March 17th. While I have very fond memories of my mother's annual St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage, I'm not sure what would happen to my insides, and subsequently my outsides if I ate it again after nearly two decades of abstaining from meat, which lead me to concoct what I consider to be a happy medium between traditional fare and a dry cleaners bill, "Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie".

It totally embodies everything I like about seasonal food: it's cozy, it's savory, and it involves potatoes. I believe all food should involve potatoes. That might be why I turned vegetarian; the hope that all meat could one day eventually be substituted by potatoes and the unshakeable belief that it certainly should be.

The starchy goodness in this recipe means that it never feels like a substitution, such a flimsy word with such flakey connotations, least of all in a St. Patrick's Day meal. Rather, it feels like a bonafide celebration. When I eat it, I can hear past pale generations sighing with relief that I'm upholding their ancient, sacred tradition of carbohydrates.

With this number wafting cozily from your table, and maybe a sharp Irish cider to sip on you'll never be that vegetarian on St. Patrick's Day. Slainte!

EA Hanks' Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

(45 Min Prep, 25 Min Cooking)

6 Carrots
5 Celery stalks
1 Red Onion
2 cloves of Garlic
2 Cups Green Peas (Option to add a little St. Patrick's Day Green to the scene)
6-8 potatoes
4 Tablespoons Butter or Soy Margarine
3 Cups of Milk or Soy Milk
2 packages Meatless Ground (I prefer Yves Vegan Cuisine Meatless Taco Stuffers, but you can use any soy or corn based products available in the deli section of most grocery stores)
2 Cups of Red Wine
2 Cups of Olive Oil
Pinch of Garlic Salt
Pinch of Cinnamon

(1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Wash and peel your potatoes. Add potatoes with a little salt to the boiling water. Boil 20-30 minutes.

(2) Chop carrots and sauté in a frying pan on medium heat with a little olive oil.

(3) Add chopped celery, onion and garlic to your carrots, adding a little more olive oil and salt and pepper, when carrots are just beginning to brown.

(4) Add the faux meat and bring the heat up a little. Most faux meats can be really dry, so add a touch more olive oil, and red wine. Add salt/pepper/garlic salt as you see fit. Judiciously add a pinch of cinnamon. Cook for ten minutes, making sure that it doesn't dry out.

(5) Drain potatoes in a strainer then replace them in the pot. Add about 3 cups of milk and 4 tablespoons of butter. Mash until desired level of lumpiness.

(6) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter

(7) Heat oven to 350°F to warm up. Using a Pyrex/casserole dish, make thin layer of the meat mix, followed by potatoes, and repeat until you run out. Brush melted butter over the top layer.

(8) Stick the dish in the oven for about 15/20 minutes, until the top layer of potatoes is slightly browned and crispy.

- By EA Hanks

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