Tuesday, September 10, 2013

High Class Shepherd's Pie

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Shepherd's pie has gotten a bad rap!  Well you know what?  Done right, it can definitely be a thing of beauty.  Stay with me here....  a well seasoned layer of thick saucy meat, beautiful al dente carrots and baby peas (not mushy veggies!), a layer of fluffy brown butter mashed potatoes with a sprinkling of white cheddar and some fresh thyme.  Oh yeah!  And not to mention - a great representation from all the food groups, and a great way to stretch a budget!

Shepherd's pie is a traditional dish with a meat base and a mashed potato topping.  The Irish made it with ground lamb, hence the name.  Where I live, ground beef is much easier to come by; but if you prefer lamb, however, go for it.  Another great thing about this is that you can assemble it on the weekend and pop in the oven on a busy week night.  My husband, who had definite opinions on how it did and did not need to be made, reported that it was the best he had ever had.  Hmmm..  So keep and open mind and keep reading.

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Ingredients:
For the meat layer -  
  • 1 – 1.5  pounds lean ground beef 
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 3 -4 large carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 cup beef stock 
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose (AP) flour
  • 1 cup frozen peas
For the potato layer - 
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes 
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 - 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp garlic powder
  • about 1 cup Vermont white cheddar 
  • fresh thyme leaves 
Step-by-Step:
Hi there everybody!  I usually cook with the kids, so it's nice to have grown-up company today in the kitchen.  We will start by prepping all the veggies.  So get in there, chop your carrots, onions, and garlic.  And while you are at it, peel and cut the potatoes and get them on to boil in some salted water.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up into small pieces.  When it's about halfway cooked through, add the chopped onions.  Cook them down for several minutes until they are soft and translucent.
1 – 1.5  pounds lean ground beef,
1 cup diced onion
Now add the garlic.  I didn't want to add it first in that blazing hot skillet, because I didn't want it to burn.
2 cloves garlic, minced
Now that the meat is cooked through, I'm adding all of my seasonings.  I'll start with the kosher salt, black pepper.
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Add in the chopped carrots.  The reason I'm adding them after the meat is basically cooked, is that I don't want them cooked down to mush.  I want them to retain their shape and some texture.
3 -4 large carrots, finely diced
Now lets work on making a beautiful red wine gravy for this.... Add in the red wine (duhh!), Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, fresh thyme leaves, beef broth, and flour. 
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons AP flour

Bring the sauce up to a boil (so the flour will do its job as a thickener), then down to a simmer for a few minutes.  We want it to be wonderfully saucy - but NOT runny!  When it reaches that "saucy" point, turn off the heat.
If you didn't already do this, get those potatoes going!  Start off with cold water to cover.  Don't forget to add the salt.  You need each step of the process to be seasoned.
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes plus a generous pinch of kosher salt

Once they are boiling and fork tender (10-12 minutes?) - NOT mushy, drain them.
Just throw the strained potatoes back into the hot pot. 
In a small saucepan, melt your butter.  We want it to get slightly brown.  Browned butter tastes really nutty and wonderful and completely different than plain butter.  So please don't skip this step.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
To the slightly browned butter, add the half and half.  Bring this mixture up to a simmer.  We basically just want to get it nice and warm before we add it to the potatoes.
1/2 - 1 cup half-and-half
Add the hot cream mixture to the potatoes.
Give them a nice generalized stir by hand and season them up - kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Note - my husband thinks that fresh chives or green onions would be great in the potatoes.  I promised that I would pass that along.
1 tsp or so of kosher salt (to taste)
black pepper to taste (1/2 to 1 tsp)
1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder

Add them to a ricer if you have one. 
Passing them through the ricer makes them really light and fluffy!  Does this bring back memories of making Play-Dough spaghetti?   :)
Alright... we are just about ready to assemble.  At the last minute, add the frozen baby sweet peas to the meat mixture.  Stir gently.  I did NOT want to cook them ahead of time.  I don't want them to be all starchy and mushy.  The heat from the meat and cooking them in the oven will be PLENTY enough heat, believe me.  Get the oven heating to 400 degrees F.
1 cup frozen peas
We are READY to turn this into a masterpiece now!  So add the meat mixture into the bottom of your cooking dish, casserole, baker - whatever you are using.  I received this gorgeous copper pot as a gift for my birthday earlier in the year, so I'm choosing this tonight rather than a casserole dish.
Now I am putting those great fluffy potatoes into a dessert decorator and piping them out to make a super pretty top layer.  I wanted all those little ridges so they would get sort of brown and crusty.  If you don't have one, you drop the potatoes by the spoonful and perhaps use a fork to make ridges.  This decorator is something you typically use to add icing to a cake or extrude cookie dough - but there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box and using it for other things.


Add a little fresh thyme (or chives) to the top of the potatoes. 
Just enough thyme leaves to look pretty and be fragrant.
Now this beauty is all ready for the oven.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes.
In the last 15 minutes, I added some freshly shredded Vermont white cheddar cheese.  You could certainly use yellow cheddar if you want to.. or even some Parmigiano reggiano. 
a big handful of white cheddar.  Maybe 1 cup?
Time to make its debut......
And here we have it.  The cheese gives it a beautiful sheen on top, yet I can still see the fresh herbs and all those great little ridges.  
Now I think we have taken something really mundane and ordinary and made it extraordinary.  It definitely fit the bill for our quiet dinner together.  I think it would be absolutely adorable baked and served in individual ramekins.  And just another note... it made great leftovers for my office lunch the next day after all those flavors sat in there together.  Score!!!!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe.  There is no reason why "ordinary" food can't taste great and be beautiful.  If you would like to check out more recipes, click on over to my Recipe Index where you are sure to find lots of ideas.  And by all means, Click here to subscribe to MenuMusings if you haven't already done so!

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Written Method:
Start by prepping all the veggies.  Chop your carrots, onions, and garlic.  And while you are at it, peel and cut the potatoes and get them on to boil in some salted water.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up into small pieces.  When it's about halfway cooked through, add the chopped onions.  Cook them down for several minutes until they are soft and translucent.  Now add the garlic. Now that the meat is cooked through, I'm adding all of my seasonings.  I'll start with the kosher salt, black pepper.  Add in the chopped carrots.  The reason I'm adding them after the meat is basically cooked, is that I don't want them cooked down to mush.  I want them to retain their shape and some texture.

Now lets work on making a beautiful red wine gravy for this.... Add in the red wine (duhh!), Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, fresh thyme leaves, beef broth, and flour.  Bring the sauce up to a boil (so the flour will do its job as a thickener), then down to a simmer for a few minutes.  We want it to be wonderfully saucy - but NOT runny!  When it reaches that "saucy" point, turn off the heat.
If you didn't already do this, get those potatoes going!  Start off with cold water to cover.  Don't forget to add the salt.  You need each step of the process to be seasoned.  Once they are boiling and fork tender (10-12 minutes?) - NOT mushy, drain them.  Just throw the strained potatoes back into the hot pot. 
In a small saucepan, melt your butter.  We want it to get slightly brown.  Browned butter tastes really nutty and wonderful and completely different than plain butter.  So please don't skip this step. To the slightly browned butter, add the half and half.  Bring this mixture up to a simmer.  We basically just want to get it nice and warm before we add it to the potatoes.  Add the hot cream mixture to the potatoes.

Give them a nice generalized stir by hand and season them up - kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Note - my husband thinks that fresh chives or green onions would be great in the potatoes.  I promised that I would pass that along.  Add them to a ricer if you have one.  Passing them through the ricer makes them really light and fluffy!
Alright... we are just about ready to assemble.  At the last minute, add the frozen baby sweet peas to the meat mixture.  Stir gently.  I did NOT want to cook them ahead of time.  I don't want them to be all starchy and mushy.  The heat from the meat and cooking them in the oven will be PLENTY enough heat, believe me. 

We are READY to turn this into a masterpiece now!  So add the meat mixture into the bottom of your cooking dish, casserole, baker - whatever you are using.  Go ahead and preheat the oven to 400 F.

Now I am putting those great fluffy potatoes into a dessert decorator and piping them out to make a super pretty top layer.  I wanted all those little ridges so they would get sort of brown and crusty.  If you don't have one, you drop the potatoes by the spoonful and perhaps use a fork to make ridges.  Add a little fresh thyme (or chives) to the top of the potatoes. Now this beauty is all ready for the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  In the last 15 minutes, I added some freshly shredded Vermont white cheddar cheese.  You could certainly use yellow cheddar if you want to.. or even some Parmigiano reggiano.  The cheese gives it a beautiful sheen on top, yet I can still see the fresh herbs and all those great little ridges.  

Now I think we have taken something really mundane and ordinary and made it extraordinary.  It definitely fit the bill for our quiet dinner together.  I think it would be absolutely adorable baked and served in individual ramekins.  And just another note... it made great leftovers for my office lunch the next day after all those flavors sat in there together.  Score!!!!

28 comments:

  1. When you use ground beef it is then called cottage pie. You must use lamb to call it shepherds pie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your input, but just to clarify..... Cottage pie OR shepherd's pie is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. The term cottage pie came into use in the late 1700's, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor. The dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and was both lined and topped with mashed potatoes. The term "shepherd's pie" did not appear until 1877, and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie," regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or lamb. Here in the U.S. ground lamb is not as accessible as ground beef, so this was how I chose to present the dish. The home cook should feel free to use the protein of their choice.

      Delete
    2. Gee Julie, you must have spent some time on Google to come up with THAT answer...that's like saying that if you choose to use penne pasta instead of spaghetti and still call the dish "spaghetti", then that's okay because "this is how I choose to present the dish."

      Delete
    3. "Anonymous"...REALLY? Do you need to be that picky? Julie posted a great recipe, and can call it what she wants since it is her blog. Looks like a Shepherds Pie to me. I would think the next time before you post something like this response. It looks a little "childish" to me...

      Delete
    4. Regardless of the terminology, isn't the entire premise of the recipe and this blog (or any recipe blog, really) to pass along some yummy ways to make food that have been passed down through family or re-invented to make daily food life interesting and delicious? We get a glimpse into someone else's kitchen, and we take back something to add to our own. I personally have several recipes that have been passed back and forth that may have differing terminology from what other's prefer, but my interpretation of what I am trying to achieve does not matter--just the end result. In this case, the end result is simply something yummy and enticing that was born out of putting a new or different spin on something traditional. Why be so negative and critical of someone else's recipe? If a recipe name is that offensive, would it not be best to agree to disagree and simply move on? Is it really worth being critical and hurtful in the end? If the recipe intrigues you enough to take back to your kitchen, take the parts you like and leave the parts you don't.

      Delete
    5. I don’t really understand all the controversy regarding the name of this recipe. Shepard’s Pie, Cottage Pie, or even Gardeners Pie, which is what vegetarians call their version, is meant to be an easy and tasty way to use up leftovers, whatever they may be. If you have leftover pork you could call it Piggy Pie…but seriously a name is just a name is just a name…call it whatever you like. The name does not change the fact that this is a fabulous recipe that I have personally made in my own kitchen; it truly is a delicious comfort food enjoyed by all.

      The majority of us who follow this Blog do so because we are interested in wonderful recipes that we can recreate in our own homes. Personally speaking, I sincerely appreciate Julie’s efforts and willingness to share her recipes with us. It takes both a lot of time and energy to keep a Blog going, and rather than bashing her over something as trivial as a name, we should be thanking her for her time and readiness to share.

      Delete
    6. My good gravy Anonymous, have you nothing better to do with your time? Tire of kicking kittens?
      Looks like a great recipe Julie. Any meat or combination of, will taste wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
  2. Hi Julie, Found your site through a non-food blogging friend. I like the use of browned butter in your mashed potatoes and I wish I would have thought of that. Nice to make your acquaintance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there..... nice to meet you. Thanks for the compliment! :)

      Delete
  3. I agree with the two comments made in response to the "Anonymous" comment. I made this Saturday night and it was delicious. I can't imagine most folks not knowing the general idea of "Sheperd's Pie". Basically, Julie inspires me to cook and I love how she explains each step for those of us that aren't naturals in the kitchen. Thanks, Julie, for sharing your passion and staying positive!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Any idea how many servings this is?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to say without knowing your serving sizes. I would imagine at least 6 very healthy servings. It's very dense.

      Delete
  5. Could this be made the night before?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see why not. Then you could just pop it into the oven (perhaps covered for a while so it won't over brown.

      Julie

      Delete
  6. I live in the midwest, we use a similar recipe and we always called it Shepherds Pie. Thanks Julie for a great presentation - I love how you do individual photos for each step. I'm going to switch to your recipe!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, heaven! That's what this recipe is! I love comfort food and Sh. Pie is one of my favorites. I have about 3 different recipes for this dish, which, by the way, in the US we do use the name, Shephard's Pie no matter the meat used. So my current recipe calls for sage in both the veggie/meat mixture and the mashed potatoes and yours doesn't call for it, but the thyme, Worcestershire and beef broth are perfect. Didn't include the wine, though and it was perfect! Thanks for this very wonderful recipe; all my other ones are goin' in the trash!

    Mtn Girl
    www.thelighterburden.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have this in the oven right now!!! So far it tastes scrumptious! I can't wait. Love your recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Omg. This was A-mazing! Total hit. I used Bison in this. I found some and wanted something "special" to cook it up in and man this was it! Good job!
    -Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've made this dish a number of times and it is always a hit. It is now my go-to St. Patrick's dinner. Today I'm making it for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family. It was easy to double (maybe need to go a little light on the beef stock) and I'm making it ahead of time and just serving with a light salad. Thanks so much for this one. It's a favorite!

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I made it for dinner tonight and I absolutely loved it. The recipe was simple to follow, I usually season the ground beef with a lot of different seasonings but as I was cooking I noticed I didn't need any other seasoning. I did add corn to my recipe because I love the way it tastes in previous recipes I've tried. Everything else I did as directed by your simple amazing recipe. Once again thank you for the delicious recipe, I will definitely be repeating this dish as it has become my favorite by far!

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  12. Amazing!! thank you for sharing it . Regards from Australia

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  13. This sounds so good. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Can't wait to give this a go.

    Simon

    ReplyDelete
  14. Super delicious!! Made this for my husbands 34th birthday and he was extremely pleased. Thank you for sharing your recipe I surely appreciate it

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  15. Super delicious!! Made this for my husbands 34th birthday and he was extremely pleased. Thank you for sharing your recipe I surely appreciate it

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have been meaning to make this for a long time and finally got around to it. I love your version of Shepherds pie! Thank you so much for sharing this delicious treat!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I make this dish all the time, it's so easy and so delicious. I am not a fan of peas, so I just sub zucchini. Love it so much, than you for sharing your recipe with the world!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think zucchini sounds fantastic in it! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Delete

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