Five years ago, on January 24th, I started making a new tradition. I make Pastel de Papas for dinner. What is Pastel de Papas? Well, it was my favorite dish that my mother would make. It is the Argentine twist on the British classic, Shepherd’s Pie. Instead of peas and carrots, she used raisins and olives. Instead of mashed potatoes, she used sweet potatoes. She liked to spike her dish with cayenne, nutmeg, red wine and thyme. Her version did take a while to make, but it made for a delicious dish that had layers of interesting spices.
I chose January 24th as that was my mother’s birthday. And if she were still alive, today she would have been 73. This is also my opportunity to celebrate my mother’s life, as well as pass on stories of my mother to my boys, as they have little to no memory of her.
So, today, I would like to raise a glass of wine. Red wine, I might add. To Juana! Feliz Cumpleanos, Mami!
Pastel de Papas
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
4 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped
12 green olives, sliced
2 bay leaves, whole
2 cups water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 potatoes, boiled and cooled
2 sweet potatoes, boiled and cooled
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Brown the ground chuck with the minced onion until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent. Then, add the allspice, pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, sugar, olives and eggs. Mix together thoroughly. Add the water, bouillon cubes and bay leaves. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. While waiting for the water to evaporate, soak the raisins in the wine. When the water has evaporated, add the raisins and wine and continue to cook until the wine evaporates.
3. Mash the boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes together. Add the milk and butter and whip until smooth. Add the nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.
4. Place the meat mixture into a casserole dish. Pile the mashed potato mixture on top. Sprinkle with the 2 tbsp. sugar and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
Serving Ideas: Serve with a green salad and a glass of red wine.
Yields: 6 servings