Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Drugs, No Hugs (because hugs hurt) - Tin Roof Cottage Pie

Tuesday - I hate fibromyalgia because, among other things, it overrides the medication I take for depression.  At least that's what I think is happening. I took Cymbalta for years with pretty good results, but when I look back I realize the efficacy began to decline as the fibro symptoms increased, resulting in some very deep, dark depression. My psychiatrist, who I am seriously thinking about replacing for various reasons, took me on a wild ride of pharmacopeia intended to replace the Cymbalta. She was determined to get me away from an SNRI (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) - not sure why - and I became a test subject for all sorts of crap, including that oldie-but-goodie Lithium, and when it was all over the only "experiment" that worked was the relatively new drug Fetzima. Which is, you guessed it, an updated SNRI, just like the Effexor I took for a number of years until the side effects became unbearable, and which the good doctor replaced with Cymbalta.  I didn't have any side effects from Cymbalta, and it probably just needed to have the dosage increased, and did I mention it serendipitously gave me a small amount of relief, but relief nonetheless, from the fibromyalgia pain? (Fetzima isn't approved for treatment of fibromyalgia, nor have I noticed any serendipitous relief.) Apparently SNRIs are most helpful in treating my depression, provided the dosage and side effects are monitored. I can only imagine she'd had a spat with the sales rep who handled Cymbalta, because why else take me off that medication without even trying to adjust the dosage when I was nowhere near the maximum?  

To conclude this dreadful rant, I woke up today yet again in a funk and not a good Uptown Funk kind of funk. I am always depressed these days despite daily medication and weekly talk therapy. Not the horrible, landed-me-in-the-hospital depression from last year, but bad enough. Fibro fog has been brutal, what with forgetting simple words ("recess" is just one of many examples) and names (Samuel L. Jackson and several people I worked with fairly recently). I have to stop what I am saying and ask for help from the person I happen to be speaking to. I lose track of the thread of a conversation and have to ask what we were talking about. Can't do simple math without writing it down or hauling out a calculator. And then there's the anxiety - will I even be able to get out of bed today? Will I get any of my chores done (incidentally, I had lost the word "chores" for weeks, which is why I referred to them as "tasks" in recent blog posts). Can I take a shower and dry my hair without having to take an inconvenient nap immediately afterward?

In other news, the Magic did not make it to the play-offs which means, at least for them, basketball season is over. Placing blame is part of the game, and I place the blame squarely on the heads of the overpaid morons who whipped up the latest series of trades. Congratulations, you are all right up there with Otis Smith for making the Most Destructive Magic Trades this century. Asshats, all of you.

As you know, I did a little cooking. Very little. And now I typed up the recipe for you; it only took me three days. But you're worth it.

Tin Roof Cottage Pie

There are endless variations of this humble dish and its venerable first cousin, Shepherd's Pie.  It resembles a pie as much as does my mother's sweet potato pie - which is to say, not at all. There is no bottom crust and unlike a potpie which does have a top crust, shepherd and cottage pies have none. Instead they are topped with a nice layer of mashed potatoes. Meat and mash, what could be better?

This version was inspired by my extended possession of mushrooms and onions. They were threatening to go limp, like Dom DeLuise's lizard in "Robin Hood - Men in Tights".  You know how I adore Mel Brooks, and how I hate to waste food, so instead of confining this pie to the maximum 3 layers - meat, mash, and green peas (and sometimes corn) I threw in a fourth because anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

It took me 5 freaking days to complete this simple dish. (And 3 additional days to type it up.) That's me - I have fibromyalgia and have to stop frequently to take an Advil, or a nap, or a day off.  For most people, excluding the overnight slow cooking of the mushrooms and onions, you are looking at 2 to 2 1/2 hours, including the final baking time.

As I previously stated, there are 4 layers to my version, and they all ready work well together. Like the United States and no other country in the world. (Maybe Britain - Mexico is furious with us, and even Canada is a bit miffed after the Keystone pipeline debacle. And let's not even mention Israel.)

And now, the pie:        

Mushroom and Onion Layer 

1 pound white mushroom, sliced thickly
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 large onions, halved and sliced thickly
1 stick butter, cut into smaller pieces
Kosher salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion,
 Emeril's Original Essence, dried thyme leaves - all to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon Worestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in the order given in a 4-5 quart crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours; stir and cook for another 2 hours. Set aside to cool.

Corn and Peas Layer

1-11 oz. can niblet corn, drained
Equal amount of frozen green peas, thawed under warm water
1-14.75 oz. can creamed corn
To taste: Kosher salt, ground black pepper, pinch of sugar, cayenne pepper, dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Combine everything except the butter in a small saucepan, and over medium heat bring to a steady bubble. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated. Set aside to cool.

The Meat Layer

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1-10 1/2 oz. can Campbell's chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
To taste: Italian seasoning, garlic pepper, kosher salt

Cook the beef, onions, and carrots together in a large skillet until the meat is browned and te vegetables are tender. This will take a little while; the carrots need time. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring for a minute. Add the tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and seasoning; hold back on the salt until you have a chance to taste. Both the chicken broth and the garlic pepper have salt in them, so taste first, then adjust the salt. Simmer until the natural juices are mostly reduced. Drain off any excess grease, and set aside to cool.

Potato and Rutabaga Topping

1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 pound gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Grated cotija or Parmesan cheese
To taste: kosher salt, ground black pepper
1/2 stick butter
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
Dried chives
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

Boil the rutabaga with some sugar in the water for 10 minutes. Drain and keep warm.  Set the potatoes to boil in salted water; once the water boils, add the rutabaga and boil together for 30 minutes until the rutabaga is soft enough to mash. Drain, return to the pot and mash using an electric hand mixer. Add the butter and mash with the potatoes and rutabaga until melted. Add the cheese, heavy cream and chives and mix them in. When cool enough, mix in the egg, using the hand mixer.

Construct the pie:

I happened to use 4 aluminum loaf pans, but you can use any baking dish that suits your fancy. Spray the inside lightly with some no-stick stuff and make the layers, pressing each layer down lightly:

1/2 of the meat mixture
All of the mushrooms and onions
Remaining half of the meat mixture
All of the corn and green peas

Top the entire dish with the mash, making sure it is covered to the edges. Since I intended this to be rustic,  I did not use a piping bag or tip. Instead I used the tines of a dinner fork to form some swirly track. Nothing too complex. Finally I sprinkled the top with more of the grated cheese, and baked in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the interior is headed through and the top is browned to your liking. Let it cool slightly before serving.                      

Very tasty. And filling; add a salad and bread and dinner is abundantly ready. And pretty. Yes indeed, it's a culinary trifecta.

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