Shepherd’s pie isn’t big in the US – and certainly not in the South where I grew up – but I’m always intrigued by full meals that can be served in one dish. I basically made this shepherd’s pie without looking at any recipes and just went off the knowledge that it’s ground meat topped with mashed potatoes. Here’s what I wound up with:
First, start boiling four basic old yukon gold potatoes (or any kind of potato, really), peeled. This will take about 10 minutes.
While those are gettin tender, sauté ground meat (I used a mixture of 1/2 lb. beef and 1/2 lb. veal) with garlic, onion powder, worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Once it’s cooked through, pour it into a baking dish. Around this time your potatoes may be just about done so take them off the heat and drain them.
In the same saucepan you used for the meat, start sauteing 1/2 a large chopped onion in a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the onion is just about done, pour in frozen peas (I used about 3/4 of a box) and warm through. Pour this mixture into the baking dish on top of the meat. Once again, go back to the same saucepan and saute sliced button mushrooms (1.5-2 packages if you like it mushroomy like me) in olive oil or butter. Again, pout those into the baking dish on top of the pea mixture.
Now get to mashing. Mash them taters up with some butter and fresh ricotta (use your best judgement), and some salt and pepper. Spoon the potatoes on top of the mushrooms and sprinkle some grated white cheddar on top (about 4 oz should do the trick). The point of the cheddar is to get the top layer extra brown and bubbly. Throw the whole thing in the oven at 425 for 10-15 minutes. Put under the broiler for another 3 minutes to get the top a little browned.
Ok ok so since developing this recipe, I learned a few things: shepherd’s pie is usually made with lamb, there’s often some carrots and tomatoes in there to make the filling it more stew-like, there’s no cheese anywhere, and it’s not so layered (more like meat filling with potato topper). To that I say WHATEVER. My version is delicious. Lamb is great, but a beef and veal mixture is pretty solid. It was probably only made with lamb in the first place because they’re more prevalent in Ireland. Well, we’re in America now and this here’s bovine country. And so what if I add cheese? It’s a widely acknowledged fact that cheese makes everything better. And I love my layers. It makes the meal feel more complex and like a meal. You’re not hiding veggies in the filling; you’re giving them their very own row in the dish. Note: I happened to use an extra large dish (3.5 qt.) because it was closest to me, but that meant my layers were thinner since they were spread out over a large surface area. Use a smaller dish and your layers will be more defined.
So there you have it. It’s not the most traditional shepherd’s pie, but it’s tasty and so perfect for the cold weather we’re heading into.