Shepherd’s Pie

This is a recipe I have made countless times since I started my blog. I’m not sure why I’ve never written about it, but I think my reasons are that 1.) It is very personal, and 2.) It is never quite the same each time. I just make it from memory and vary certain ingredients depending on my mood or my pantry/fridge. It is personal because my dad made Shepherd’s Pie a lot when I was a kid, and it’s one of those recipes I make when I’m really missing him (he spends most of his time in far-away lands). It’s reliable, inexpensive, I love making it, the leftovers are the best, and it is a real crowd-pleaser—everyone in my family loves it; if my sister finds out I’ve made it and haven’t invited her over, she gets very cross with me.

My dad often made it with beef, but sometimes with venison or lamb. Lamb is obviously traditional—shepherd’s = those who herd sheep; lamb = baby sheep. I have made it with lamb, and love it, I’ve even used ground bison just for fun, but I usually use ground beef. You can use whatever ground meat you want, even turkey or chicken if that’s your thing. I sometimes put a layer of frozen peas between the meat and potato layer, or serve peas on the side. My dad almost always served his with our home-canned green beans—we canned a zillion mason jars of them each summer, and ate them all winter. Somehow I never grew tired of them.

Here is my most recent version; I made it to take to my grandparents’ house for dinner and, after dinner, my grandfather implored me to share it with you all. You can thank him later.

**Printable recipe is at bottom of post**

IMG_7991

Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6-8 usually with leftovers

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup wine—red, white, or marsala
  • 3 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (if I’m out of tomato paste I just omit it. No big deal)
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

For the potatoes:

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs (about 6) yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup milk (you might not need the whole cup)
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the topping (optional):

  • 1 cup of grated, really sharp white cheddar

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Potatoes:

First, get your potatoes going. Add your peeled, chopped potatoes, whole peeled garlic cloves, and bay leaves to a large pot of generously salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until very, very tender. (you can get the meat mixture cooking while you’re waiting).

Once potatoes are tender, drain in a colander, remove bay leaves but leave the garlic, add potatoes back to pot and add butter and cream cheese. Let sit until the butter and cream cheese soften a bit.

IMG_7996

Then, with a hand mixer or potato masher, mix or mash until all potatoes are mashed. Then, add milk in stages while mashing until you reach the desired consistency. You want a nice soft mash, but not so soupy you won’t be able to scoop it out later. 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk should be plenty. Taste potatoes for salt, and add salt and pepper to taste. Usually a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper are sufficient, but taste your food! It should taste the way you want it to taste!

IMG_7997

Meat Filling:

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until most of the pink is gone, about 10 minutes. Then, add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, and season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes. If your beef is really fatty, scoop out excess fat. This is optional, and really depends on your meat choice.

IMG_7995

Next, add tomato paste and stir to combine. Then sprinkle flour over meat mixture and stir until you don’t see white anymore. Add wine and stock and cook for about 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom. The mixture will thicken. It should be a thick, gravy-like consistency.

Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Transfer meat to baking dish and spread into an even layer. If using peas, add them now. Just an even layer on top will do.

Next, add potatoes. I place large spoonfuls all around the top of the meat mixture, then I use a rubber spatula to spread it out, almost like frosting a cake, making sure to seal the edges. Sometimes I make too many potatoes. If you have this “problem” just put them in a dish and refrigerate them for another time. Having too many mashed potatoes is never a problem in my book.

IMG_7999

Now, if you really want to take it over the top, and if you have an uncontrollable passion for melted, bubbly cheese like I do, add a layer of cheese to the top. My dad did not do this.

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Place casserole dish on a rimmed sheet tray in case it bubbles over, and place in preheated oven until cheese bubbles and browns a bit. Should take about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Take it out when it looks like this:

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Enjoy!IMG_8053

I hope you love it, and I hope you have leftovers. I really think I love the leftovers the most.

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Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup wine—red, white, or marsala
  • 3 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (if I’m out of tomato paste I just omit it. No big deal)
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

For the potatoes:

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs (about 6) yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup milk (you might not need the whole cup)
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the topping (optional):

  • 1 cup of grated, really sharp white cheddar

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Potatoes:

First, get your potatoes going. Add your peeled, chopped potatoes, whole peeled garlic cloves, and bay leaves to a large pot of generously salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until very, very tender. (you can get the meat mixture cooking while you’re waiting).

Once potatoes are tender, drain in a colander, remove bay leaves but leave the garlic, add potatoes back to pot and add butter and cream cheese. Let sit until the butter and cream cheese soften a bit.

Then, with a hand mixer or potato masher, mix or mash until all potatoes are mashed. Then, add milk in stages while mashing until you reach the desired consistency. You want a nice soft mash, but not so soupy you won’t be able to scoop it out later. 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk should be plenty. Taste potatoes for salt, and add salt and pepper to taste. Usually a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper are sufficient, but taste your food! It should taste the way you want it to taste!

Meat Filling:

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until most of the pink is gone, about 10 minutes. Then, add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, and season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes. If your beef is really fatty, scoop out excess fat. This is optional, and really depends on your meat choice.

Next, add tomato paste and stir to combine. Then sprinkle flour over meat mixture and stir until you don’t see white anymore. Add wine and stock and cook for about 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom. The mixture will thicken. It should be a thick, gravy-like consistency.

Assembly:

Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Transfer meat to baking dish and spread into an even layer. If using peas, add them now. Just an even layer on top will do.

Next, add potatoes. I place large spoonfuls all around the top of the meat mixture, then I use a rubber spatula to spread it out, almost like frosting a cake, making sure to seal the edges. Sometimes I make too many potatoes. If you have this “problem” just put them in a dish and refrigerate them for another time. Having too many mashed potatoes is never a problem in my book.

Now, if you really want to take it over the top, and if you have an uncontrollable passion for melted, bubbly cheese like I do, add a layer of cheese to the top. My dad did not do this.

Place casserole dish on a rimmed sheet tray in case it bubbles over, and place in preheated oven until cheese bubbles and browns a bit. Should take about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Take it out when it looks brown and bubbly.

Enjoy!

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