If you’ve ever glanced at one of my social media accounts, you know that it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with cooking, baking and feeding pretty much anyone who is willing to taste my science experiments. For whatever reason, I have never been content with preparing a meal from a recipe exactly as it instructs me to because I’m disobedient like that (and I like to make things more interesting while adding my own personal touch).
I stumbled across a recipe for Shepherd’s pie and was immediately intrigued after reading the list of ingredients and realizing that my extremely picky eater of a husband may just like this concoction. I just so happened to marry a guy who would probably be just fine eating chicken and rice day after day after day after day. And that would be great if I didn’t like to play in the kitchen, but I do so I constantly read recipes and look for inspiration to try new things. This particular recipe called for carrots and he isn’t exactly a fan of cooked carrots. Then there was the dry red wine I didn’t have on hand. I didn’t have a round baking dish that was the appropriate size and it needed more garlic. Everything needs more garlic.
I probably broke some rules in the creation of this dish but trust- they needed to be broken and it turned out great. I will do my best to explain my version of Shepherd’s pie and I will suggest that you add this dish to your dinner plans some time in the near future. The way I see it, you can essentially make this with any sort of ground meat despite the fact that it is traditionally prepared with lamb. I went with Bison but ground beef is a pretty popular swap for lamb and would probably be equally delicious.
So what is Shepherd’s pie? It’s basically some meat with some mashed potatoes on top. Not exactly ground breaking culinary flair here but I like to know what I think I am trying to do and I am going to pretend that you, like me, had never seen or eaten Shepherd’s pie before.
If you already make some wicked good mashed potatoes, go on with your bad self and make them how you make them. If not, you can follow my recipe below.
1.5 lb of potatoes (I always use red. If you’ve never tried it, you should)
1 cup of heavy cream (if you want to spare yourself some fat, use milk)
1/4 cup of butter (and maybe a little extra)
2 egg yolks
Meat pie filling:
1.5 lb. ground meat
8 oz diced mushrooms
2 cups diced onions
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.
How to make it happen:
-Preheat your oven to 425.
-Make mashed potatoes.
If you already know how to, you can skip reading this part. If not, you peel them. Cut them. Boil them until they are soft. Drain them. Put them in a bowl. Cut up the butter into the bowl. Smash the potatoes and butter together. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you like garlic, add some garlic powder in there while you’re at it. Have your cream or milk on hand and plug your hand mixer in. Slowly add the cream in while your mixer is on medium speed. Keep adding it until the potatoes get to the right texture. Keep in mind that you can always add more cream but you can’t take any away. Runny smashed potatoes will never work for this dish. Once they get to the right texture, taste them. Odds are, they need more salt or pepper or garlic or carby love. Get them to the flavor you like and let them cool off (note- we will be stirring in the two egg yolks once they are cool).
-Make the meat stuff
Brown your meat for about 5 minutes over med/high heat, drain, set aside. (If you’re a garlic freak, you can add a little garlic powder here. It will be mostly cooked but not entirely.)
Saute your vegetables in olive oil over med/high heat using the same pan for 4 minutes or so. Add minced garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking and stirring for an additional minute. Now, stir in the flour. Once your vegetables are a weird goopy texture, add a little broth. Stir around a little more and then add the rest of the broth and the thyme (I also added garlic powder and salt and pepper at this point but that’s up to you). Let the mixture simmer for about 8 minutes or until it reaches a nice gravy like consistency.
Once you have your veggie gravy prepared, add the meat back to the pan and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
You have now successfully prepared you meat stuff. Put it in a 2-3 QT baking dish. The cool kids use a round one but I didn’t have one so I just used a handy dandy 2 QT rectangular pyrex (livin’ on the edge here, ya’ll). Make sure you added the egg yolks to the mashed potatoes. If you’re 1000% sure you did, put the mashed potatoes on top of the meat stuff and spread them around with a fork. You can even use your art skills and make a fun pattern with the fork tongs if your little heart desires.
Finally, put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake it in your 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. When it’s done, it might be a little bubbly, the tops of the potatoes should be a little brown and it should smell delicious. Let it cool before you cut into it.
Even if it looks like mush and even if you didn’t get the texture just right, it will probably taste delicious.
Make sure your gravy consistency is just right while you have it in the pan or it will be too runny as liquid doesn’t exactly evaporate once it’s in the oven. I’ve given you guidelines but you can always add a bit more flour if your gravy isn’t thickening up for some reason. If it gets too thick, you can counter with a bit more broth.
I used mushrooms and onions although the recipe I saw called for a greater variety of vegetables. Some I didn’t have and some Mat didn’t like. You basically want to have about 3.5 cups of vegetables. (I don’t know exactly how many cups of mushrooms 8 oz. came to because I used a food scale to get that measurement. 1.5 cups is a guess). (3-4 cups in total should do the trick). SO… feel free to tweak the veggie bit to your liking. In this household, you can never go wrong with mushrooms and onions.
Just as I suggested that you use milk instead of cream if you are watching your girlish figure, there are a million ways to substitute things in this recipe to fit your nutritional needs. If you’re gluten intolerant, use almond or rice flour. If you don’t do red meat, you could probably make a pretty snazzy dish with ground chicken or ground turkey. If you’re a health nut, try it with sweet potatoes and use almond milk. I could go on for forever on this subject so feel free to ask me if you have any specific dietary concerns and you want to play around with this. The bottom line here is that it was fun and easy to prepare.
This is not a traditional Shepherd’s pie recipe and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be.