Shepherd’s Pie

St. Patricks day. The day where just about every American lais claim to being Irish. I will refrain making such claim even if it were to be true. * wink *

Will and I will not be drinking any green beer nor eating corned beef and cabbage. Instead I prefer to approach the day with a nod to Irelands culinary heritage with simple, humble, hearty food.

Before I came across this recipe, I always envisioned shepherd’s pie as a blob of ground beef, cheddar cheese, and Bisquick. Not my favorite set of ingredients! But this recipe is different. There was something about the simplicity of these ingredients and understanding a bit more of the history of this dish that drew me into giving it a try. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that there is no cheddar cheese in it.

It was an instant favorite.

Traditionally shepherds pie is made with leftover minced beef from a roast and any leftover gravy from said roast. Now it doesn’t make sense to cook up a roast just to make this dish… well actually it does but just not in this instance. You can still get a pretty tasty dish with some good quality ground beef and a hearty stock. And if you happen to have any leftover gravy of sorts (especially if it is homemade), add it! It will take things to another level.

I have found that I like to add a handful of frozen peas to brighten things up a bit. There isn’t much by way of veggies in this dish… that is unless you count the mashed potatoes, which I don’t because the butter totally negates the veggie-ness of the potatoes. But peas! They add a nice pop of color and some veggie goodness to the dish without changing the overall flavor of the dish.

This dish is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. I never seem to have leftover mashed potatoes so I made up a batch. It’s worth it. Oh and don’t skimp on the butter in the mashed potatoes. Adds flavor. The green things you may see in the potatoes? Green onions.

Om nom nom.

Be gentle with spreading the potatoes on top. Resist the urge to press the back of the spoon to spread the potatoes. If you do you will end up with dunked potatoes instead of spread out potatoes. I tend to work with small spoonfuls that get dropped on top and gently connect them with the spoon… or more realistically, my finger does the spreading.

Scoring the top helps hid the imperfections and helps the potatoes crisp up a bit.

Sometimes it bubbles up over the potatoes. But that’s okay, looks are not a trait of hearty cold weather food. And sorry for no final serving shot… I kind of ran out of light and was hungry. Hunger always seems to win.

Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Irish Traditional Cooking

  • 1lb raw ground beef, cooked. Drippings reserved
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 2/3 cup chicken stock (or beef if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb of potatoes, boiled, skins removed and mashed w/butter & milk

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in the ground beef and break up with spatula. Fry until cooked through (165°F), about 5 – 8 minutes. Remove cooked beef into a bowl leaving the drippings in the pan.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the drippings in the pan. Toss in the onions and sauté on medium-low for about 5 minutes till translucent and soft.

Add the peas and toss. Sprinkle in flour and mix well. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add in the stock and bring up to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add the tomato paste, thyme, and salt & pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes, just enough to bring everything together.

Pour into a buttered 9×9 baking dish.

With small spoonfuls, carefully drop/spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture. Score the potatoes lengthwise (or widthwise).

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves: 4 – 6 depending on portion size

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