Rob Benes on Challenge No. 1
I prepared Shepherd's Pie with a Cauliflower Mash Topping, served with Blanched Green Beans dressed with Mustard Vinaigrette and garnished with toasted and chopped pepitas.
The dish also could be considered gluten-free, since no gluten ingredients were used.
Shepherd's Pie is a perfect dish for the soon-to-come cooler fall days. I also decided to make a cauliflower mash for the pie's topping rather than the traditional mashed potatoes, which provided a similar texture with great flavor.
Plus, cauliflower is a very on-trend ingredient, and I used trendy almond milk instead of regular milk.
I was familiar with all of the ingredients, except for the Liquid Monk Fruit. I found it extremely sweet, so I only used a little bit (1 teaspoon) in the vinaigrette to cut the acidity of the vinegar and provide a hint of sweetness.
The most challenging part of the recipe was the actual plating. Trying to spatula a serving of the pie always presents a challenge in ensuring it doesn't fall apart. You want to offer a full and intact piece that stands tall -- not a blob of collapsed meat mixture and mash.
Also, the pepitas, which were toasted, were a perfect garnish for the blanched greens beans.
I received comments on a first vinaigrette recipe that it was missing "something" and seemed to be "kind of flat." I decided to add just a little (1 tablespoon) of freshly squeezed lemon juice, which did the trick by brightening up the vinaigrette and adding another level of flavor.
The pie was praised for its "full flavorness." I attribute that to the combination of beef and lamb, as well as the addition of beef stock.
As for the experience, "I loved it! There nothing more that I love to do than cook, especially with ingredients that I've never used."
-- Rob Benes