I have this friend named Yulree. She's super cool, super fun and she makes super good food. And the thing that's totally awesome / makes me totally envious is that it all seems effortless. I went to culinary school for a year and it's hard for me to think outside the box of French cuisine. She, on the other hand, truly cooks from her heart. About a year ago she invited me over for dinner -- sort of Asian food, sort of European, but somehow totally soul food. One of the dishes she made was Bulgogi Shepherd's Pie. And it blew my mind. It doesn't often occur to me to mix up traditional ingredients of different cultures so I was delighted by this surprise.
And then a few months later I started craving it. I couldn't get it out of my head. "Yulree!" I exclaimed over a bacon donut one afternoon, "You MUST give me the recipe!" She agreed but laughingly admitted she cooks most of her dishes from memory and follows her instincts, so rattling off a recipe wasn't something she was used to. "Try!" I yelled, my mouth full of bacon bits and sweet dough.
"So there's... Bulgogi beef... and vegetables... and mashed potatoes... and Parmesan cheese." She said carefully, her eyes looking up at an imaginary thought bubble displaying images of food.
"And then...?" I had my phone out, ready to take notes.
"Cook the beef. Add the veggies -- just buy one of those frozen assorted bags of peas and carrots. Make mashed potatoes. Layer those on top. Then add the cheese. Maybe some panko. Then stick it in the oven till the cheese melts."
I stared at her blankly, my mouth now full of green tea donut. Then, like a couple of nerds, we proceeded to discuss various bulgogi marinades and ratios of meat to vegetable mix to potatoes. I actually felt silly for even asking for the recipe because when you really think about it, isn't all shepherd's pie just cooked meat and random veggies nestled under mashed potatoes?
When I eventually got around to testing out the dish, I worked off a bulgogi marinade recipe I learned at school and made mashed potatoes the way I'd normally make 'em. Yulree hasn't gotten to try my experiment but I'd like to think I my shepherd's pie came pretty damn close to hers. Enjoy!
Seves: 8 Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Ingredients Bulgogi marinade/beef: 1 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup mirin 2 tablespoons sesame oil 1.5 cups sugar 2.5 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons sesame seeds 8 garlic cloves, smashed 2 stalks green onion, sliced thinly on the bias 2 pounds very thinly sliced ribeye steak
Mashed potatoes: 3 pounds Russet potatoes (about 4 large) 1/3 cup whole milk 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick) 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Other filling: 1 12-ounce bag frozen peas, carrots and corn, defrosted
Topping: 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 stalks green onion, sliced thinly on the bias
1. Make bulgogi marinade: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil. Whisk in the sugar until it dissolves and sauce thickens. Whisk in the black pepper, sesame seeds, garlic and green onions. Reserve 1/3 cup of marinade and set aside. Add the beef to the large bowl with marinade, cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.
2. Start the mashed potatoes: Peel and quarter the potatoes. Add to a large pot and cover with water. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and let cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
3. Transfer the potatoes to a standing mixer or to a large bowl. Mix on low (or mash by hand in the bowl if you're not as lazy as I am) until nicely mashed. Add the milk, butter, salt and pepper. Continue mixing until combined. Season to taste. Pro tip: don't add much more than the 1 teaspoon salt -- after all, you're topping off this casserole with Parmesan cheese.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the marinated bulgogi steak to medium doneness (1-2 minutes on each side), working in batches if necessary.
6. Layer cooked meat in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. If you have any residual marinade in the saute pan, pour it over the meat. Add the reserved 1/3 cup of marinade. Don't worry about it not looking pretty. Because it won't. It'll look somewhat sloppy and totally delicious, like this:
7. Evenly scatter the defrosted peas, carrots and corn over the bulgogi beef. Layer over the mashed potatoes. Finally, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and green onions on top. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts, about 12-15 minutes.