Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Classic (but better) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies: deceptively simple, utterly ubiquitous--yet loaded with mystery. I love reading recipes for these cookie jar favorites, but I rarely come across a version that's truly new or different. With these treats, its the little things that count. You may have been making the same chocolate chip cookies for years with good results, but then you use a different technique, try out one new tip or somehow alter an ingredient and suddenly your cookies go from good (let's face it, even mediocre chocolate chip cookies--especially hot from the oven--are still pretty good) to WOW.

These cookies are descended from the classic Tollhouse style--not too big, not too cakey, and not too crisp. As intriguing as other gussied-up recipes might be, I didn't want to stray too far from this basic DNA. What I did want were cookies that did not spread out flat, stayed very soft in the center (to achieve this, don't overbake; and actually, underbake) and had superior flavor.

Last year, the New York Times published a long and intricate exploration of chocolate chip cookies in which the author, David Leite, determined that resting the dough in the refrigerator for 36 hours creates complex, toffee-like flavors and nice-looking, even browning. Another key point in the article was that a smidge of sea salt sprinkled onto the scoops of dough right before baking was a very good idea. I had no doubts about the salt, but I was dubious about the waiting period.

I did not make the exact NYT cookie, mostly because it's for an enormous, commercial-style cookie rather than the modest homey type. I also disagree with their preference for shards of chopped chocolate versus chips (I love biting into a melting pocket of chocolate--I don't want it marbled throughout the dough). After making my dough as written below, I baked a sheet of cookies immediately, after 24 hours and after 36+ hours.

This is a good cookie anytime, but we did indeed notice a difference. Compared to the cookies baked immediately, the 36 hour batch had better browning and deeper "cookie dough" flavor, whereas that initial cookie was pale and slightly one-note. The 24 hour batch was only a little better than the initial batch, so I'd advise waiting the full 36. For the science lovers in the room, to paraphrase Shirley O. Corriher in the article, this long resting period allows the dry ingredients to fully soak up the wet ingredients, resulting in a firmer dough and better consistency when baked. It also seems that 36 hours of "stewing time," as I like to think of it, brings out maximum flavor from the simple ingredients.

Does this matter? I don't know, but it's a fun experiment to try. Bake a dozen for instant gratification, then wait and see what happens after a day or two. Here's the other thing about chilling your dough: you should do it all the time (speed it up with the freezer if you must). I think it prevents the cookies from spreading, so do it even if you want to bake a batch without a long resting period.

There is no perfect chocolate chip cookie because everyone has his or her unique ideal. I like nuts, but only if they're chopped very small. As I said, I dislike crisp or flat cookies, and I don't want mine to turn into hard little hockey pucks once cool. So, if my current favorite appeals to you, give it a try! If not, tell me about your ideal chocolate chip cookie in the comments. I wonder how many of us are CCC soulmates...?

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

The original recipe has one quirk that (for me) led to good results: it calls for 1/2 stick of butter less than most Tollhouse-style recipes. Perhaps this helps prevent the cookies from spreading. It also calls for a mix of dark and milk chocolate. In most cases, I consider milk chocolate to be a waste of time (yeah, I said it), so I used all dark, specifically a bag of Ghirardelli 60% cocao bittersweet chips, which aren't particularly bitter at 60%, so they're nice for cookies. Cutting up a good chocolate bar works too (you'll need about 2 cups). I know you hear this a lot, but the quality of the chocolate really makes a difference. Ghirardelli is affordable and easy to find, but it's leagues better than supermarket staples, Nestle and Hershey's. The chocolate aficionado's out there will have their own favorites, I'm sure:)

Makes about 40 cookies

1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
12 oz dark chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli bittersweet (see headnote)
3/4 cup (3 1/4 oz) chopped, toasted walnuts
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Equipment Note: To prevent the bottoms of cookies from over-browning, I LOVE insulated cookie sheets. If you like a soft center and cookies that don't harden as they cool, they're a must. Check them out here and here.

1) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2) Beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until smooth and blended, about 2 minutes (longer for handheld mixers). Add one of the eggs and beat just until blended; add the other egg and vanilla and beat until blended.

3) Turn mixer on lowest speed and add the flour mixture. Beat until no patches of flour remain, scraping down the bowl as needed.

4) With mixer off, add the chocolate chips and nuts. Turn the mixer to lowest speed and beat until just combined.

5) Chill the dough for 1 to 2 hours minimum (30 minutes in the freezer), and up to 36 hours.

6) When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out rounded tablespoon-sized balls of dough and place on parchment about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt (or to taste) over each ball of dough. Bake one sheet at a time (to promote more precise, even baking) in the center of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Quickly open the oven and rotate baking sheet halfway through. Cookies are done when just lightly browned at the edges and still a bit soft in the center; the bottoms should be light golden brown. Let cookies rest on the baking sheet for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. Parchment paper may be reused for several batches. If reusing baking sheet, allow to cool to room temperature before scooping dough.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bloggers Celebrate Gourmet Magazine


Here it is--your round up of blog posts celebrating Gourmet magazine (more about the event here)! Thank you to everyone who wrote about a recipe from the magazine and sent me your links and photos. It's cool to see the wide range of recipe choices--from a healthy bean dish to a comforting stew to (several!) decadent cheesecakes. It was a total pleasure putting this together. Gourmet may be gone (I can't bring myself to open the final issue yet; have you?), but I for one plan to cook the magazine's excellent recipes for years to come.



Cheryl of 5 Second Rule made this very pretty White Beans Puttanesca.




Lisa of Visual Traveler made luscious Pumpkin Cheesecake Supreme--a recipe that's been one of her mainstays since 1983!




Slashfood showed us how to make spooky Halloween treats with Gourmet's Chocolate Brownie recipe.




Another perfectly seasonal selection comes from Emily of The Culinary Couple: Spiced Apple Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.





Adrienne of Hungry Bruno used an assortment of fresh 'shrooms for this Wild Mushroom Pasta.




Meg of Delicious Dishings has a long line up of recipes she's cooked from Gourmet. Click over to her blog to read about such tasties as Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Pie (!) and Fried Mozzarella Balls.


When Amy of Playing House makes Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, she means really slow--6 to 8 hours! I can attest that this technique is worth it!




Ginny of Just Get Floury baked a loaf of Pumpkin-Raisin Bread.








And don't forget Tom's Pear Butterscotch Pie (which he kindly let me post on this blog) and my own contribution to the event: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Kristin of Picky Cook tempts us with Minted Berry Cheesecake. She also treats us to her own round up of recipes she's cooked and blogged about from Gourmet (including scones and thumbprint cookies--my kind of girl!).





Maggie of The Freckled Citizen shares a weeknight favorite, Garlicky Black Pepper Shrimp & Black Eyed Peas.





Snow of Little Miss Sunshine made a lovely, healthy dinner for one that I'd eat any night of the week: Miso Glazed Sea Bass with Asparagus.





Katie of Lil Veggie Patch did her 'lil bit healthier version of Caramelized Banana Splits with Chocolate Sauce.






That gorgeous Chocolate Cream Pie at the top of the post is from Stephanie of Desserts for Breakfast. She also made Green Beans with Poached Egg and Parmesan from the magazine.


Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet couldn't decide on a Gourmet favorite. So, she posted her thoughts about the magazine and links to some of her top contenders, like Coconut Cake with Lime Curd and Chicken Cashew Chili.


Feast your eyes (and your stomach) on Flavorista's fall showstopper, Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue. Hello, Gruyere!






Beth of Miss Mango Hands offers another take on pumpkin cheesecake: a pie version with gingersnap crust and crystallized ginger topping.






Breadchick Mary from The Sour Dough made the Gourmet version of two of her favorite foods: Meatballs and Rice Pudding.





Eric of Culinary Agoge whipped up this Brown Butter Pound Cake with a beautifully burnished crust.






Kate of Savour Fare sends us these artistically plated Crab Cakes with Spicy Avocado Sauce.





It's a fungi fest (ha!) on Chocolate & Croissants with this Wild Mushroom Soup.







Johanna of Pretty Girls Use Knives cooked up Chicken in Riesling. I'm thinking cozy dinner party dish.





Alyssa (also of Pretty Girls Use Knives) fell for creamy (but cream-free!) Cheddar Potato Soup with Bacon.


Last, but far from least: Veggie Girl adapted this Applesauce Pecan Cake to suit her dietary needs. You sure can't tell the difference by looking, so you'll love her smart recipe fixes!



If anyone out there missed participating in this event, please share your thoughts in the comments! Do you have a favorite recipe from Gourmet that you make all the time? Or maybe there's a memorable dish you cooked for a special occasion years ago. I want to hear about it! And links are always welcome, so I can try out your recommendations. Gourmet is gone, but I'm more resolved than ever to learn from--and enjoy--their nearly 70 years worth of culinary knowledge.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pear Butterscotch Pie from Gourmet, Sept. 2009


Thank you everyone who took part in the celebrate Gourmet blog event! It has been so cool to receive all your photos and read your posts. I'm working on getting the links up here for the official round up, which should be done tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a tribute from Tom, a reader in the Washington, D.C. area who doesn't have a blog, but still wanted to participate.

He made this very appealing pear butterscotch pie, which I think is perfect for any fall weekend, or a holiday meal. Thanks for all your pie-making tips, Tom. Enjoy, everyone!

Pear Butterscotch Farewell

I actually became a Gourmet subscriber by accident over a year ago… The subscription was a free gift from another website when I ordered a housewarming gift for a friend. I started receiving the magazine, and after two months called Gourmet to investigate and make sure I hadn’t paid for something that I hadn’t known about. Obviously, there was no harm done and I’ve been hooked every since… So of course, I was VERY disappointed to hear that the magazine is being canceled… I couldn’t help but join in this blog event as a tribute.

I picked the Pear Butterscotch Pie on page 61 of the September 2009 issue. I hadn’t done the particular recipe before, but I’ve been working on my pie technique pretty much all year and thought this would make a good addition. Pies are also great to bring into the office to share with co-workers and spread the calories around so I’m not stuck with a whole pie to eat by myself!

For the pie crust, the recipe referred to an all-butter pie crust on page 35 of the same issue – I couldn’t agree more with Gourmet’s assertion that the all-butter crust is the way to go! The butter just gives an amazing flavor that folks rave about. I actually use a little more salt and add a touch of sugar to my pie crust, most inspired by another website. Another key to pie crusts is the proper handling of butter. Never let it get too warm… The whole art of the pie is the crust. Generally the filling doesn’t take long at all and doesn’t require too many cooking tricks, but the pie will live or die depending on your handling of the crust! So this has been the focus of my ‘pie studies’ the past year.

I chop the butter into smaller pieces then refreeze while I sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Once it’s ice cold, I cut the butter together with the dry ingredients by hand using a pastry blender. I suppose I could buy a food processor to do this, but I never feel like spending the money and using my hands just feels so much more natural. Once it’s mixed together you splash cold water onto the mixture one tablespoon at a time. Lately I’ve noticed that it has taken more water than I’ve expected to hold the crust together – as many as 7 tablespoons! Once it all starts sticking, I divide the dough in half and form into disks, wrapping in saran wrap, and putting back in the fridge for at least another 20 minutes.

I use the time the dough is chilling to make the filling. Whisking together the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar and chopping the pears – good knives are SO important to good preparation no matter what the task. Not only that, good knives make it more fun because the cutting goes so smoothly and everything looks smooth and professional when you’re done. Following the directions for the filling, here, I also freshly juiced half a lemon – the bottled stuff just never has the same zest as freshly squeezed. (I did, however, use pre-ground nutmeg, rather than grating my own; but it’s from Penzey’s and pretty fresh so I didn’t mind.)

Once the filling is ready, I take out the pie dough for rolling. I warm the crust in my hands while starting to press it out thinner on the rolling mat. This way I can also make any adjustments with extra flour or water to help with early cracks in the dough. Once the dough is properly flattened, I put it between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it out. The parchment paper makes sticking much less of a problem (still flouring the surface) and makes putting the crust into the pie pan SO much easier.

The cute part of this recipe is the bit about using the excess dough to make leaves. Admittedly, I don’t have leaf cookie cutters so I tried my hand at doing them with a knife. They turned out OK, but in general, making the pie crust truly pretty with clean edging and decorations is still something I have to work on. I think Gourmet’s tip about pressing the two crusts together and “folding under” maybe kept this pie from boiling out more than others past. (Still, cooking with a sheet underneath is critical to avoiding HUGE oven messes.)

Anyway, out of the oven the pie smells and looks amazing! The cinnamon and nutmeg really come through. Can’t wait to bring it into work.

Thank you Gourmet magazine! You will be missed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Carrot Cake Cupcakes from Gourmet, Dec. 2007

This post is my contribution to the food blogging event I came up with to celebrate Gourmet magazine. If you haven't heard about it yet, you have plenty of time to participate! Just read my announcement post and get cooking! You've got until Friday, October 16 (yes, I extended the deadline by a day!) to send in your link and jpeg. If you're planning to participate, have you already made your dish? Did you choose new or oldie? I can't wait to read about it!

When I moved from Florida to Chicago in June, I cleared out a lot of stuff. That's the beauty of moving right? Well, among the many material possessions I shed were quite a few issues of Gourmet. I saved a select few, which I imagined I simply couldn't give up. As for the rest, I thought, the website will always be there. And even more so, that there would always be new, wonderful recipes, ideas and inspiration arriving in my mailbox every month. I sure hope Ruth Reichl doesn't leave for at least a few more years, I thought.

Little did I know. I'm still surprised and sad that this harbinger of American culinary creativity and critic of food politics and policies is no more. After hearing this news, I quickly determined there's nothing left to do but appreciate Gourmet for what it was: my favorite food magazine. I loved to cook from it (and did so many times on this blog--see below). I also loved to linger over the glossy photos and then go back through and read the articles and recipes that caught my eye. It was good bedtime reading...sweet dreams, for sure.

I felt the need to make a new-to-me recipe for the event, rather than an old favorite. I went through the few remaining issue I do have and couldn't make up my mind. In the end, simplicity was the answer. Mike and I LOVE carrot cake and were long over due to make it. Searching gourmet.com, I found these cupcakes from December '07. Made with vegetable oil and 3 eggs, they deliver the moist texture you love in good carrot cake.

There are very few recipes I follow to the letter, and this one is no exception. That's just my style--I don't think the Gourmet recipe developers would mind. I added raisins, coconut and ground cloves, as well as a bit more cinnamon and ginger than the original calls for. I also replaced the orange glaze suggested in the magazine for classic cream cheese frosting. They are delicious. Thank you, Gourmet, for making me a better cook, a more creative thinker and a smarter consumer.


Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2007
You can grate the carrots in a flash in a food processor, or use the large holes of a box grater. Don't buy pre-shredded from the supermarket--they'll lack flavor. I always wished gourmet would give weight measurements, especially for baked goods. Since they do not, I'll advise you to measure the flour by lightly spooning it into the measuring cups (do not shake the cup!) and leveling with the dull edge of a knife. If you love nuts, I think 1/3 to 1/2 cup of toasted chopped walnuts or pecans would be great here.

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups shredded carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients (through cloves). In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the oil, brown sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in the carrots, raisins and coconut if using. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Pour batter into muffin cups and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 24 minutes (mine took exactly 22), rotating pan halfway through to ensure even cooking. Cupcakes are done when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes with a bit leftover.

4 ounces cream cheese (lowfat or regular)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Cut the cream cheese and butter into 1-inch chunks and bring to room temperature (should be very soft). With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating on medium speed, until sugar is incorporated and frosting is lightly and fluffy. Immediately frost cupcakes, or refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature to make spreading easier.

More recipes from Gourmet magazine on A Mingling of Tastes:

Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing Make it for Thanksgiving--you won't be sorry!

Pear-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake Easy, yummy and not too sweet.

Cardamom Waffles Great if you love cardamom, and if you're not sure, try it!

Toasted Pasta with Duck Luck Guazzetto This Lydia Bastianich dish is DIVINE.

Ribeye Steak with Pomegranate Glaze An easy sauce to dress up steak.

Roasted Beet Risotto Easy, beautiful, so good.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blog Event: Let's Celebrate Gourmet!


If you haven't heard the sad news yet, Gourmet magazine has been shut down by its parent company due to these difficult economic times. Since you can read plenty about it on countless blogs and news sites, I won't rehash the details. It's too sad.

So, in the interest of staying positive, I'm hosting a blogging event. To celebrate the nation's oldest food magazine (published since 1940!), let's cook, photograph and post about our favorite recipe from Gourmet's pages. If you tend to clear out most of your back issues, just go to gourmet.com where you'll find recipes categorized by decades (the website is a wonderful place to explore the magzine's history, which is really American food history!), themes and holidays; or just search for anything you want.

Maybe you remember a perfect cake you made years ago, or a simple chicken dish you threw together last week. Whatever it is, find it and write about it. And if you want to pick a new favorite, that's great too. I'm betting it's going to be tough to choose just one incredible Gourmet recipe.

To participate in this event, here's what to do:

1) Cook a favorite recipe from Gourmet magazine and publish a blog post* about it anytime from now till October 16. Include a link to THIS POST in your blog post so readers will be able to find out more!

*No blog? I still want you to participate! Just email me your story/recipe or photo, and I will post it here on aminglingoftastes.com. Include first name and where you're from. Don't be shy!

2) Email a link to your post, the name of your blog and, if you want, an image of the dish in jpeg form to aminglingoftastes AT gmail DOT com by October 16. No late entries please!

3) Publicize this event! Tell your followers on Twitter, tip off your facebook friends and mention it on your blog. Let's get as many recipes and stories gathered together as we can!

4) Check back here around October 19-20 for a round-up of all the posts.

Easy, right! I know I'm not giving you much time, but I think it's important to get some positive energy going. The more I think about life without Gourmet, the more bummed out I feel. Since yesterday, I've read some great tributes and opinions about this sad situation, and I want to include some links here:

Goodbye Gourmet, I'll Miss You, by Steph of Wasabimon.

Goodbye, Gourmet, by Kelly of Nommynom.

RIP Gourmet by Paige of Hey, Little Sister.

Say Goodbye to Gourmet by Jeff of Wine Curmudgeon.

What Ruth Reichl is doing next by Kim Severson of the New York Times' Diner's Journal blog.

Gourmet Was For the Young and Scrappy, Too by Alex Van Buren of Salon.

Late Stage Empire: How Condé Nast could’ve saved Gourmet magazine, and why it chose not to
by Paul Smalera on True/Slant.

How Condé Nast Is Like General Motors by Jack Shafer on Slate.

My own take on the news here at Magazine Know-It-All.

The news story as reported by the New York Times.

And finally, a new Twitter feed has sprung up called Save Gourmet.

Now talk to me! Are you as shocked and saddened as I am? Are you going to participate in this blog event (please say yes!). Do you know exactly what you'll cook, or is it going to be a hard decision? Sound off in the comments!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Sheperd's Pie

Happy October! My favorite month is here, and I've got the perfect seasonal dish packed with satisfying textures and a hint of warm spice for a chilly night. Shepherd's pie is a classic-- a perfect example of homey, hearty food that imbues basic, often leftover, ingredients with more flavor than anyone expects.

It's also the perfect dish to play around with. As long as you have the key components--spiced meat and veggies topped with mashed potatoes baked to browned, crusty perfection--you can put your personal stamp on it, and make use of ingredients you have on hand or that suit your personal taste.

I'm not sure that anyone's agreed on one traditional version of Shepherd's pie, but leftover minced lamb is often considered the classic choice of protein. I haven't cooked a massive leg of lamb to give me the necessary leftovers in years, so I take the liberty of using fresh ground beef. To recreate the rich gravy, I use all the tricks in chefs' flavor-building books:

- Browning vegetables, like onions, carrots and mushrooms
- Packing on the aromatic spices, like cinnamon (absolutely vital to this dish!), cloves and chile powder
- Adding a dollop of tomato paste for a hit of umami
- Pouring in a glug of red wine and reducing it for an extra layer of complexity

It may have been invented to use up bits of food on hand, but I think Shepherd's pie is worth making for its own merits. This recipe also makes it simple enough to do whenever you have the craving!

Shepherd's Pie
Loosely based on this recipe by Michael Chiarello for Food Network
Some improvisations for this recipe: switch up the veggies-- a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes would be good, as would frozen peas or even less obvious choices, like diced zucchini and parsnips. Use ground lamb or turkey. Gussy up the mashed potatoes any way you want--garlic, butter, sour cream, Gruyere or Manchego cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 small onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups choppted carrots
Cooking spray
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. chile powder
fat pinch of ground cloves
pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 lb. white or yukon gold potatoes
Buttermilk or regular milk
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large skillet to medium-high, add beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until no longer pink. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, cover with more paper towel and press gently to soak up fat.

Return skillet to heat and add onion and carrots. Season and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl. Return skillet to heat and coat lightly with cooking spray or oil. Add mushrooms, season and cook until liquid is released. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are lightly browned. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the thyme, rosemary and flour. Stir quickly to coat mushrooms with flour. Add tomato paste and beef broth. Bring to a simmer. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Return onion and carrot to skillet and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in beef and remove from heat. Mixture should be moist but not watery.

Meanwhile, chop the potatoes (you can leave the skins on if you like) and boil in a large pot of water until fork tender. Remove pot from heat, drain in a colander and return potatoes to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk and mash. Add more liquid as needed to make soft, yet slightly chunky mashed potatoes. Add scallions and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer beef mixture to a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Switch on broiler and continue cooking just until top of pie turns golden and slightly crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Rest pie for 10 minutes and serve.