There are just some meals that no one could make better than your mom, to include any of the Iron Chefs. And those meals vary from person to person. For me, no culinary specialist could top my Irish mom’s shepherd’s pie. Shepherd’s pie is, as you would expect, a traditional Irish dish of ground lamb, carrots, onions, garlic and various herbs and spices topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. Mom would bake the dish until a perfect cheesy/potatoey crust formed on top that provided a perfect consistency with the underlying lamb. I’m doing my best impression of Pavlov’s dog right now, despite the lack of a bell and becoming a vegetarian as an adult.
Prior to going vegetarian, I had never sampled a shepherd’s pie that could hold a candle to mom’s. However, I think if MagicKitchen.com made the dish they would come in a very close second. Alas, they do not offer a shepherd’s pie, but they do offer other recipes that certainly give moms everywhere a run for their money. Here are a few of our favorites and I bet at least one of them will bring back memories of your mother preparing it with love just as food critic Anton Ego’s (voiced by a marvelous Peter O’Toole) mother did for him in the movie Ratatouille.
Chicken Parmigiana – Our chefs coat the succulent chicken breast with freshly crushed panko breadcrumbs and bake. They then smother the baked chicken with sauce made from Valoroso pear tomatoes straight from Italy, fresh basil, thyme, marjoram and garlic and then top it with Parmesan and whole-milk mozzarella cheese and bake again, just enough to melt the cheese into the sauce. Mangiare!
Macaroni and Cheese – Just about every mom had a homemade recipe for mac and cheese that put the boxed versions to shame and ours does the same while taking you back to your childhood kitchen where your feet dangled off the chair, not yet reaching the ground. Our elbow macaroni is made from scratch and we cover it with the finest mild cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. We then add various secret spices and bake to perfection. Simple is sometimes best.
Roasted Turkey with gravy – Our turkey breast is slow roasted, thickly sliced and then coated with our delicious turkey gravy seasoned with oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram and thyme. Some “sage” advice from “Rosemary:” sounds like its “time” to order this dish and not just for Thanksgiving.
California beef stew – That’s actually perfect for a cold midwestern or northeastern winter’s day. The prime cuts of cubed beef are slow cooked in a tomato and red wine gravy and a mirepoix of potatoes, carrots, peas, onions and garlic. Throw in a dash of our perfect mixture of herbs and spices and you might not be able to tell ours from mom’s.
Cinnamon raisin bread pudding with caramel rum sauce – What adult cannot remember their mom’s sweet desserts that you could eat no matter how stuffed your tummy was? Since smell is the sense most closely associated with memory, the smell of cinnamon wafting through your kitchen as you heat up this wonderful example of comfort food will, no doubt, evoke childhood memories aplenty. This moist dessert has just the right amount of pure vanilla, plump raisins, caramel and, of course, cinnamon to cause you to loosen that belt a notch or two. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream…ahhhh, life is good.
Double fudge brownie – As with the mac and cheese, no artificial box version here. We use fresh ingredients, to include gourmet Guittard chocolate, that make it worth walking around all day with brownie crumbs wedged into the corners of your mouth as you did as a youngster. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the best part, the “double” in the title refers to the chocolate chips embedded into the fudge of the brownie. No need to thank us.
Dutch apple pie – Gotta hand it to those Dutch, they created an awesome dessert that we improved upon, as did your mother, I’m sure. We hand roll a flakey, single crust…no top crust in the Dutch version of apple pie, just a light covering of cinnamon crumbly goodness…and then mix our sun-ripened apples, picked at peak freshness, with brown sugar and vanilla, among other things, and then bake it until a golden halo appears. It’’ll just feel like you’re in Heaven.
As mentioned, these dishes might not top mom’s, but they sure come darn close. Try them and the memories of you and mom in your childhood kitchen will arrive thick and fast and that’s always a good thing.