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Shepherd’s Pie

Posted in : beef, casserole, classic, dinner, easy, farming, food, food history, holidays, intermediate, leftovers, potato, potatoes, savory on by : Jeanette Rueb Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Shepherd’s pie is another meal that tends to resurface around St. Patrick’s Day, but the peasant dish isn’t truly Irish. Many countries have their own versions of this meal, which was traditionally made out of the scraps of a Sunday feast. A “true” shepherd’s pie uses a mix of lamb and vegetables as a base with a mashed potato “crust” on top. Variations include shepherdess pie, which is a modern vegetarian alternative, pâté chinois, which is a Quebecois version that layers beef, corn and potatoes, and a Dutch concoction called philosopher’s stew that has been known to incorporate apples and beans. No matter how you make it, all of these dishes come from the same humble concept that can be summed up in the term “cottage pie.”

My version is a sort of middle ground. It’s based on what can easily be found in American grocery stores and uses a fair amount of vegetables to add some variety to the texture. My mom used to add cheese to the top of hers, so I’ve listed it as optional (full disclosure, I forgot to buy shredded cheese while I was at the store). As a kid, I hated shepherd’s pie, though I couldn’t tell you why. Something about the flavors and textures just didn’t appeal to me. I’m glad I outgrew that. 🙂

One final note before we start, this is not a quick dinner. It’s a lot of runaround prep work that took me about two and a half to three hours to finish. It’s definitely worth the wait, and it makes a TON of food, but it’s definitely time-consuming.

Mashed Potatoes 
1 tbsp Garlic powder
1 1/2 pounds Russet or red potatoes
1/4 cup Half & half
4 tbsp Butter
Pinch Salt
Pepper, to taste
1 Egg yolk

Meat and Veggies
2 tbsp Canola oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 large Carrots, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/8 cup Vermouth
2 pounds Ground beef
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp Flour
1 tbsp Tomato paste
1 cup Chicken Broth
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Thyme
2 tsp Rosemary
3/4 cup Corn
3/4 cup Peas

1 cup Shredded cheese (optional)

Start by prepping your vegetables. I used canned corn and peas, so all I had to do was drain them. Chop up your potatoes into 1-inch cubes and throw them in a pot. Chop up your carrots and onions and set them aside.

In a medium saucepan, toss the garlic powder on top of the potatoes and add in enough water to cover the chunks. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer over medium for about 15 minutes until they’re tender enough to stick a fork in with no trouble. Cut up the butter and put it and the half and half into a microwave-safe dish. Melt the butter and set the bowl aside. Once the potatoes are soft, drain out the water and put the potatoes back in the pot. Mash them up before adding in the butter and cream. Work until smooth and then fold in the egg yolk and set everything aside.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes before adding in the carrots and onion. Saute them until the onions are translucent and beginning to color (3-4 minutes). Add in the garlic and vermouth and stir everything to combine. Toss in the beef (or lamb if you decided to take the traditional route) and the salt and pepper and cook until browned. Sprinkle the flour into the pan (don’t drop a clump in!) and mix everything around until it’s evenly distributed. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, and herbs and stir it all together. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil before covering and simmering on low for 12 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and get out a large glass casserole dish.

Once the meat is finished cooking, drain off most of the liquid and add the corn and peas to the pan. Combine everything before pouring the meat layer into the casserole dish. Next, add the potatoes on top and using a rubber spatula, spread it evenly across the top, bringing it up to the sides to contain the liquids from the bottom layer. Sprinkle cheese on top if you wish and pop the casserole dish in the oven for 25 minutes and cook unti lthe potatoes are golden brown around the outside. Let the pie sit and cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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