It’s been awhile since I’ve shared something from my kitchen, and part of that reason is because I’ve been on the road. In early May, my partner and I launched a 6 week South American family-and-friend visiting tour. We’ve been in Argentina for almost a month now, and while this country is famous for everything that comes off the grill, there are of course some other dishes that deserve some kitchen time.
Pastel de papas, or potato pie, is one of my favorite foods down here. It really appeals to my German-descendant proclivity to combining meat with anything starchy. (MMMMM!!) This dish really reminds me of a type of Shepard Pie, and being that Argentina is largely made of European immigrants, there’s a chance someone brought this dish from the Old World and made it differently throughout the ensuing generations.
Whatever the true history is, Argentinians consider this dish 100% Argentinian. And I’m not one to argue with them, especially when they’re about to give me a slice to eat.
PASTEL DE PAPAS / ARGENTINIAN POTATO PIE
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp pimentón dulce (sweet Spanish smoked paprika)
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp dried mustard
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 lb tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large Idaho (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Enough milk to cream the potatoes (up to a cup)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 – 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 – 1 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Combine the olive oil, onions, and carrots and saute over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add the ground beef and cook for about 4 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, cumin, pimentón, pepper flakes, and mustard. Add the red wine and let it bubble gently for 5 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.
Stir in the tomatoes and olives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the meat is very tender and the liquid is reduced but not totally evaporated. (Remember, we want the finished dish to be moist!) Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a medium pot with cold water to cover, add salt to taste, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and boil for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender when tested.
Drain the potatoes and once a bit cooler, begin to mash. Add milk to the potatoes until creamy, adding butter/salt if desired.
Heat oven (with the rack in the lower third of the oven) to approximately 375° F.
Butter a baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of mashed potatoes. Top with the meat mixture (including juices from the skillet). Slice the hard boiled eggs about 1/3 inch thick and add this on top of the meat mixture, then top with the rest of the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to press a pattern into the entire surface of the potatoes. Top the pie with small dabs of butter, and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese if you want!
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely browned on the top or the cheese is bubbly.
I’ve also seen this recipe made with a handmade flour-based dough serving as a crust both above and below the ingredients above (looking even more like a pie!). If you’re game (and you have a round oven dish), press one half of the flour crust into the shape of the dish, then add the ingredients as listed above. Add second half of the flour crust and pinch at the sides to enclose, brushing the top with egg yolk before baking.
Did this recipe inspire a potato pie night at your house, or something similar? Tell me about it below! And if you have a fun twist, or any related inspirations, be sure to share!