I’m not quite sure what it is about this savory pie that makes it a Basque speciality. Perhaps the use of potatoes and olives differentiate it from similar recipes in that part of the world. Or the Basque region developed the dish first. In any case, it’s quite delicious. It’s like a inverse shepherd’s pie, the potato topping for shepherd’s pie becomes the crust here. The filling can be almost anything: besides a tomato beef filling, try chili, bean stew, vegetable stew–as long as it’s not too wet. The potato crust is soft; by baking the crust alone for 15 minutes or so you will get a more firm crust.
3 – 4 medium potatoes
4 T melted butter or oil, or a combination, divided
1/4 t salt
1 c chopped onion
1 lb ground beef, or other ground meat
1 c tomato sauce
1 c shredded cheese
1/3 c pitted, sliced black olives
ground black pepper, to taste
sour cream, for serving, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Peel potatoes if you like and slice as thinly as possible. A mandolin or vegetable slicer comes in handy here. Toss the potato slices with 3 T of the melted butter or oil along with the salt. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie plate with the slices, overlapping so there are no bare spots. If the slices are really thin, you can do a double layer, which may mean using more potatoes. Save 8 or so slices to top the pie, if you have enough. Don’t worry if you don’t. If you like, bake the potato crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
2. In a skillet, heat the remaining butter or oil and sauté the onions until soft. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. If there’s a lot of fat in the skillet, and you don’t want that, you can remove the beef/onion mixture with a slotted spoon and drain the fat from the pan. Return the beef/onion mixture to the skillet and add tomato sauce, cheese, olives, and black pepper. Stir to combine and heat through.
3. Transfer to potato-crusted pie plate. Smooth top and place the reserved potato slices, if using, over the mixture. This is more of a garnish or decorative element–you’re not trying to make a second crust.
4. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked and the edges are browned and the filling is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving, with a dollop of sour cream, if you like.