Prior to about a month ago, I had never eaten Shepherd’s pie. I knew it involved meat sautéed with onions and peas, thanks to Rachel on Friends. Remember when she made the Traditional English Trifle and mixed it with the Shepherd’s Pie by accident??? (“It tastes like feet!”) Ha!
One of my all-time favorite Friends episodes.
For many of you, Shepherd’s pie is childhood comfort food. For me, it was something I made one day in November because
1. It was cold outside.
2. I was looking for a one-pot meal that I could make in advance
3. That everyone would also love
4. With ingredients I had on hand
I found this: Alton Brown’s Recipe, Via Food Network
(Please excuse the poor lighting in the pictures. The thing about taking dinner pictures is that it happens to be night time when I’m actually cooking/serving it. You know, real food bloggers cook their food during the day so they can photograph it in natural light? It’s all a scam.)
I chose this recipe because it had over three-hundred reviews and five stars, across the board. I know why. It’s delicious.
Since I don’t have anything to compare it to, I don’t know if there is a better way to make it. All I know is that it is easy, it smells amazing and my entire family gobbled it up and wanted it again.
Elijah wanted me to make it the next day. I waited a week, though.
This recipe will easily become a regular in your rotation.
Little piece of Shepherd’s Pie Trivia: It’s only real Shepherd’s Pie if you use lamb. (Get it? Shepherd???) If you use ground beef, like I did, it’s called Cottage Pie. I don’t actually know what cottages have to do with cows, but whatevs. I will just refer to it as Traditional English Trifle.
Here is the original recipe with my comments/substitutions in parenthesis.
For the Potato Topping:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half (I used whole milk)
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
For the Meat Filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (I used grass-fed, organic ground beef)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves (Please use fresh! You will thank me!)
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves (I mean, for real, buy a bundle of fresh herbs and then toss the rest into a pot with bones and onions and water and make some bone broth! Or add them to fresh marinara sauce. Or chopped over roasted chicken. The options are endless and fresh herbs do not need to go to waste.)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I cut mine bigger than this. They’re getting mashed anyway, so no big deal.) Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.(I have never tested boiled potatoes by crushing with tongs. I always pierce with fork. If they fall apart, they’re done.)
Place the half-and-half/whole milk and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half/milk, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined (I have accidentally forgotten the yolk and it was fine. I think the yolk just adds a little color and some depth to the potatoes.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil/olive oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, (Just FYI–this is one of my favorite moments in life: when chopped onions hit hot oil. I don’t know…it just makes me so happy.) approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir to combine. (My second favorite moment in life)
Add the lamb/ground beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.
Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. (Don’t skip this step! This is what turns your juices and broth to a delicious gravy.)
Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. (I have to tell you, the Worcestershire is key here.)
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly. (Enjoy the smell in your house right now. Go ahead. Just breathe it in.)
Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Finally, write all these ingredients on your grocery list for next week, because your family will ask for it again.