Kitchen Experiments: Bistek Tagalog Shepherd’s Pie With Purple Yam

Since finally making it up to Seafood City I’ve been itching to play with some of my favorite Filipino food flavors since I now have access to the right ingredients. I promised myself I was going to do this when I made it back from WisCon, and I’m pretty pleased with the results, if I do say so myself.

Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favorite dishes—it’s ground beef in a rich sauce covered in mashed potatoes and baked. I love how it’s a no-nonsense dish. Not only does it hit all of those comfort food notes (savory, warm, protein, carbs), it’s also pretty simple and versatile.

Bistek (or Beefsteak) Tagalog is one of my absolute favorite Filipino dishes. In fact, for years I didn’t even know what it was called, it was just “that savory-sweet thinly sliced beef and onion dish I looked forward to my aunt and uncle making once a month.” The flavor is savory, tart, sweet, garlicky, with a hit of umami. It’s complex and rich and hits almost all of my favorite palates. I didn’t even know it was a typical Filipino dish until following Filipino Kitchen‘s food posts and discussions. I also love ube for its buttery, lightly sweet flavor and soft texture, but since I can’t get actual ube, working with purple Okinawan yams (which are actually sweet potatoes and not a yam, apparently) is an acceptable substitute.

So naturally I was going to play with combining all these things: the flavor of bistek tagalog in the meat for shepherd’s pie, covered with mashed purple yam instead of white potatoes. And this is what I ended up with.

I had two helpings and it’s a struggle not to just tuck into the entire casserole dish with my fork right now. I didn’t even want to add hot sauce (which for me is a very rare occurrence). While I still plan on tweaking the initial result a bit (different cheese on top, maybe adding peas and carrots to the filling, and finely chopped parsley for a little extra garnish), I think the recipe as it stands is a fine base for anyone else to start with if they’re interested in trying it. This was cobbled together with several ingredients done “to taste” so I’m approximating on the lower end and encourage adding to get to your personal preferences (always start with a light hand because you can add more but if you over-season, you’re screwed).

Ingredients (approximately 4 servings):

  • 1lb ground beef (I prefer 90% lean)
  • 1 large purple Okinawan yam, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 7 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 packet frozen calamansi concentrate (or a couple of tablespoons of calamansi juice)
  • 2 tblsp cooking oil
  • black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tblsp butter or Earth Balance soy spread
  • a sharp savory cheese for topping (I used Big Ed’s Gouda but I think a saltier hard cheese that will brown in the oven, probably from the parmesan family, will work better – cheese is optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Set aside a medium sized casserole dish.
  2. Put purple yams in a pot, cover with water, add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil approximately 20-25 minutes until yams are soft. Reserve 1.5 cups of the boiling water, strain yams. Mash yams in a bowl with butter or Earth Balance, add a bit of the reserved boiling water at a time until the mash reaches desired consistency (I like mine very soft and easily spreadable). Set aside.
    Note: You can use milk to make the mashed yams, I just use the reserved boiling water since the Husbeast is dairy-free and if there’s extra mashed yams then he can have some.
  3. Coat a large deep skillet with the oil and heat over med-high. Add onions, saute until browned around the edges. Add garlic, saute til golden. Add ground beef, stir until almost cooked through. Add soy sauce, calamansi concentrate, and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and simmer on med until sauce reduces somewhat (maybe 5-7min). Add more soy sauce and pepper as needed if so desired. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour beef mix into the casserole dish. Top with mashed yam and smooth til even. Alternatively, if you want to be fancy, top the beef mixture with the mashed yam using a pastry bag and decorative tip. Put in the oven on a middle set rack, bake for 15 minutes. (If you’re not doing cheese, just bake for 25 minutes)
  5. Remove casserole dish, top mashed yams with finely grated cheese (if so desired), return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving. If so desired, garnish with finely chopped parsley before serving.

This will easily store in the fridge for several days, you can reheat servings in a microwave safe bowl. Assuming you have anything left. I’ll update this recipe periodically as I make adjustments.

 

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