by the handful

Nutritious culinary and healing recipes collected from the North American garden, orchard, forest, river and ocean

Cast Iron Skillet Woodsman’s Pie

photo (57)The freshest of the garden vegetables are long gone by winter, however nutritious meals can still be put together. This Northwest version of the classic Shepherd’s Pie is especially loaded with vitamins and minerals and is a hearty winter dinner for the whole family. Baking the pie in a cast iron skillet simplifies the recipe and  adds a little extra iron to the meal as the tomato paste helps leach a trace of this mineral from the pan.

Cast Iron Skillet Woodsman’s Pie

2 lbs red meat: venison, elk, or grass-fed beef 

2 huge handfuls of fresh chanterelle mushshrooms cleaned (or mixed mushrooms)

1 large russet potato

1 large sweet potato

1 large parsnip

shallot minced

2-3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 -1 cup red wine (can use stock as substitute)

1 tsp cumin

fresh sage chopped

salt and pepper


For this recipe you will just need a large cast iron skillet and a stock pot. The trick to making this pie delicious is to have a sauce that is neither dry nor runny, of course the whipped potato top is important too. Add water to stockpot and bring to a boil. Peel and cube potatoes and parsnip then add to water.

Meanwhile, set oven to 375 degrees and chop chanterelles into cube sized pieces. Also mince shallot.  Add 2 lbs of red meat to skillet and cook at med high heat. If using venison or elk  add 1 tbsp of butter to pan first as these are very lean meats. Break up meat as it cooks and when it is about half  cooked through add in the minced shallot, cumin and a pinch salt and pepper. When meat is fully cooked you should have some liquid in the pan. If the pan seems a little dry, add a half cup of stock or water.

Next turn down to medium heat and stir the tomato paste into sauce. Gently fold in the mushrooms and add 1/2 cup of red wine. Let sauce thicken, which will take a few minutes and possibly more. Add 1/2 cup more wine or stock as needed if it’s too dry, or tomato paste if it’s too runny.

Meanwhile, test the potatoes with a fork. When they are cooked through remove one ladle of water from pot and set aside. Remove pot from heat and strain. Add 1-2 tbsp butter (more is of course better), a pinch of salt and mash with a potato masher or mixer  ladling the water back in. Add the sage to the meat mixture, remove from heat when sauce is ready. Give it a taste and season as needed. Use a spatula to spread whipped potatoes over meat in skillet. I like to use a fork to make lines through the potatoes. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, turn the broiler on high which should quickly brown the top. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.




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