It's been cold -- the kind of cold that turns everyone in our city into a bunch of whining, sniveling hermits. After a few weeks of middling cold-ass temperatures, the end of this week plans to bring cold weather, ice, and snow like we've so blissfully missed out on so far in the extended fall that we call winter in Texas. Not to be cliche, but winter, it is fucking coming.
Which is precisely why you need to drag your bundled-up ass to Lower Greenville's The Blind Butcher. Chef Oliver Sitrin is known for his gussied-up comfort food, "controversial" takes on poutine, and just a general familiarity with making meats taste incredibly delicious. With the seasonal shepherd's pie, though, Sitrin may have outdone himself.
On a particularly brisk evening, my party was forced to sit on the patio because, as usual, Blind Butcher's teensy interior was packed full of people shoving their faces with delicious things like poutine and pig tails. We chose a spot in the corner, far away from the heater, hoping that a few beers and a big plate of meat would warm us up enough to deal with the temperatures.
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Traditionally, shepherd's pie is a peasant's food that's made with whatever odds and ends of meat and vegetables were lying around. Sitrin has the same philosophy toward his own shepherd's pie, using scraps from Butcher's constantly-evolving menu to create a pie that is never quite the same each time.
According to Sitrin, lamb is always the star of the shepherd's pie, but on the night of our visit, "goat and rabbit were also in the mix." Peas, carrots, herbs, and onions are added to the meats, then the whole mixture is cooked in a delicious gravy that is based on stock made from lamb bones and other assorted delicious bits.
The traditional mashed potato topping on Sitrin's shepherd's pie is, not surprisingly, some of the best mashed potatoes you'll ever have in your life. A thick layer of potatoes is piled on top of the meat filling, then topped with white cheddar, panko bread crumbs, and of course, butter. Of course, by the time of this writing, Sitrin has probably already changed his recipe up and added some crazy shit to the mix, like foie gras or duck fat.
The resulting pie is simultaneously comforting and indulgent without being fussy or presented with too much fanfare. The shepherd's pie comes out of the kitchen blazing-hot, so you better be sure that your waitress has brought a fresh beer to soothe the burns on your tongue that will inevitably follow. Eat it while it's piping hot, and this shepherd's pie will be the most comforting dish you have in these unbearably (to Texans) frigid temperatures.