Week of March 12 – March 18, 2018

Pancetta Arugula Roasted Tomato Salad

Monday:                      Pancetta, Arugula and Roasted Tomato Salad / Fontainebleau Cheese with Crostini and Crudités

Meatball Soup

Tuesday:                      Beef Meatball Soup

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Wednesday:                Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Blue Cheese, Green Salad

Yogurt Chicken with Mustard Seed Sauce

Thursday:                    Yogurt Chicken w/ Mustard Seed Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Green Salad

Shepherd's Pie Dinner

Friday:                         Julie’s Dinner – Shepherd’s Pie, Cole Slaw, Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes, Soda Bread, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake and Hilda’s Shamrock Cookies

Shamrock Cookies

Hilda’s Cookies

Saturday:                     Leftover Shepherd’s Pie and Hilda’s Shamrock Cookies

Roasted Badadas

Sunday:                        Fountainebleau Cheese and Herbed Goat Cheese with crudités, Grilled Szechuan Lamb Chops, Grilled Tomatoes / Roasted Potatoes with Pancetta / House Salad / Blue Cheese with Pears, Walnuts and Raisins


‘There are three things that make life worth living for a man:  a good day’s work, a pretty woman and his mother’s cooking’    –  Guess who?

Last Friday night we, along Tim and Ann, had dinner at Julie Stoecklein’s home.  Julie served  Shepherd’s Pie with Cole Slaw, Soda Bread and Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes, and a Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake for Dessert.

We haven’t had a better dinner since we can remember.  And, now that we’ve begun to remember (fairly serious work for someone our age), we have had many great dinners at Julie’s house.  In fact, we have had enough to declare that this lively mother of 4 is the best cook in the neighborhood.

Julie and Kids

Julie and her fine boys who are all grown up now

I’m not sure what makes anyone a good cook, so I asked Julie for her thoughts.  Here is what she said:

“As far as cooking, and your mother* would attest to this, with four boys I knew that the way to keep them coming back home was to cook to their hearts’ content!!  At the time I didn’t realize that all of their friends would be fighting for a place at the table, as well.  I usually had at least two extra friends each night. I love the time spent with them in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, they have all grown to be wonderful cooks themselves and I even created a cookbook for them with their favorite recipes.

*My mother, Jean, raised 5 boys.  She was pretty good at keeping the posse fed, but she couldn’t cook like Julie.

Now, if Julie’s thoughts on the purpose of cooking don’t inspire you, then you must be reading this blog for scientific or legal reasons, or as some strange form of penance.  Everyone I know who gives some thought to cooking is looking to do one thing – make family and friends happy.  There are a lot of us trying to do this, but the laurels in our neighborhood go to Julie.  And, since we didn’t break anything at her house or spill wine on the carpet, we’re hoping that she’ll invite us back.

Julie’s dinner was overwhelming taste-wise.  The Shepherd’s Pie is the finest of savory dishes, perfect for what turned out to be a frosty night.  The cherry tomatoes, frazzled in a skillet, became intensely sweet – like biting into tiny packets of stewed tomato.  The slaw gave the needed tang to cut through all of the richness.  And the cake was simply and totally one step beyond what we needed or deserved.

Shepherd's Pie


(from Alton Brown’s recipe as interpreted by Julie)

Timing:                                    90 minutes (45 to prep, 45 to cook)

Ingredients:                                                Serves 8

For the potatoes:

1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
¼ cup half-and-half
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:

1 ½ pounds of ground lamb
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup of chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 cup of chicken broth
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme
½ cup fresh or frozen corn
½ cup fresh or frozen English peas


Find a baking dish that is 11×7 inches or equivalent

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper

Chop onion, carrots, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Measure out other ingredients (or make sure they are handy).

Peel the potatoes and cut into ½ inch dice.

Preheat oven to 400 F.


The potatoes:  Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water.  Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and turn down heat to maintain a simmer.  Cook until tender (about 12 minutes).  Microwave the half-and-half and butter and warm – about 35 seconds.  Drain potatoes and return to the pan.  Mash potatoes until smooth and stir in the egg yolk until combined.

The Filling:  Prepare this while the potatoes are cooking.

Put canola oil into a 12-inch sauté pan over medium high.  When oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and sauté until they begin to color – about 3 minutes (if you have a high BTU burner) or as long as 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir.  Add the lamb, the salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through – maybe 3 minutes.

Add tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, and thyme and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer slowly for about 11 minutes – until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and the peas to the lamb mixture.

Now spread the mixture evenly into an 11 by 7 inch baking dish.  Top with the mashed potatoes, starting at the edges, then smooth with a rubber spatula.  You want to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up.

Place baking dish on a parchment-lined sheet pan on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 25 minutes – just until the potatoes begin to brown.

Remove from oven to a cooling rack and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

3 thoughts on “THE BEST COOK

  1. What a great week it was indeed. Beez and Bill did celebrate 39 years on 3/17,😮🍀 Julies’s dinner did start off the weekend on a high note for sure as we had a little celebratory IC too! Bill said it all, Julie too is a fab cook and enjoys every minute of it as much as Bill.
    I am now hungary for pancetta!🐇
    Love the pic of the Mum with her boys, did I take that picture long ago !?

  2. I love shepherd’s pie, and had it on St Pat’s Day — though I know it was not as tasty as Julie’s recipe!


    Oh my! What a fabulous picture of Julie and her four little boys. Couldn’t be more adorable — other than you two and your two little guys. 🙂


    Katie McSorley President, Mid-Atlantic Havas PR

    m 1-724-413-6565 w a 925 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222



Leave a Reply