We’ve had some strange winter weather so far this season. We seem to be on an endless roller coaster, racing between freezing temperatures and sunny summer-like skies. I’m really to the point now where I just want Mother Nature to pick a season and go with it. My wardrobe is greatly confused.
The other day, it was downright dismal outside. The skies were a creepy, murky gray, the wind was something out of “The Wizard of Oz”, and the bitter cold rain was coming down in sheets. Not exactly the winter wonderland we like to picture this time of year. I knew that whatever I made for dinner that night, it needed to warm me up, heart and soul. Some days just call out for comfort food and this was one of them.
I decided to bake up a Shepherds Pie. Warm, cozy, mushy in all the right places (Why is most comfort food high on the mush factor?), yet flavorful…it seemed the perfect thing to warm us up.
Shepherds Pie has a lot going on, but if you plan it out right, you can have it put together and ready to pop in the oven in less than 30 minutes.
Start by prepping your potatoes. I used two pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes. I peeled them, quartered them and threw them in a pot.
Cover the potatoes with cold water, toss in a little salt and let them sit on the stove top while you prep the other veggies.
You’ll chop up an onion, some celery, a carrot and a little bit of garlic. When you start sauteing the veggies, turn the burner on for the potatoes and get them going. Once the water starts boiling, the potatoes need to cook for around 20-25 minutes.
The veggies need to cook for about seven minutes, to soften them up a bit, but not too much. Once they’ve started to brown, you’ll stir in just a bit of tomato paste. If you can, grab a tube of tomato paste next time you’re at the grocery store. When you don’t need an entire can of tomato paste, the tubes are a great option. It looks like a tube of toothpaste. Squeeze out the tablespoon or two that you need and then the tube can be kept in the fridge for an indefinite amount of time.
Once the tomato paste is worked in, you’ll add your ground beef or lamb. I know, I know. Traditionalists are going to have my head, but I used ground beef in my Shepherds Pie. I don’t like lamb. I know many people do, though, so if you’re one of them, feel free to do a switcheroo.
Once the beef is browned up, skim as much of the grease off as you can. I did this by pushing all of the meat and veggies to one side of the pan and then tilting the pan to the other side. I spooned off quite a bit of grease this way. After cleaning up the grease, you’ll add some beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Let that simmer for about five minutes and then add a cup of peas. I was unseasonably lucky to find fresh peas at the grocery store, so I used those, but frozen peas would work well too.
Once that’s all mixed up nicely, transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish. This recipe is easily doubled, so if you’re feeding more than 4 people, double everything and bake it up in a 9×13 inch pan.
By this time, your potatoes should be done cooking. Test them by poking one with a sharp knife. If you can insert the knife and remove it without resistance, they are done. Drain the potatoes in a colander and add them back to the pan. Add a little milk or cream and a dab of butter and mash them up. Once they are the consistency you want, stir in 3/4 cup of grated white Cheddar cheese, some salt and pepper.
Spread the potatoes over the top of the beef and veggies, making sure that they are covered from edge to edge. Once that’s done, rake through the potatoes with a fork to bumpy it up a bit. Those peaks and bumps will brown up nicely when you bake it.
Pop the pie into the oven and by the time you’ve cleaned up the kitchen, set the table, and have the drinks poured for everyone, dinner is ready to go!
Mmmm…a big plate of fresh from the oven, Shepherds pie on a chilly, rainy night makes everything just a little bit cozier. Warm us up, it did.
Heart and soul.
Adapted from Danny Boome
- For the filling:
- 1/2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup beef broth
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- For the Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup milk or cream
- 3/4 cup grated sharp white Cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400*
- Add the butter and olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Saute the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until just tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the veggies have browned just a bit, stir in the tomato paste and mix thouroughly. Add the ground meat and cook until meat is no longer pink, 7-10 minutes. Spoon off as much grease from the meat mixture as you can. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef broth. Simmer, over low heat, for 5 minutes. Mix in the peas. Transfer mixture to an 8×8 baking dish.
- Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Bring the pot of potatoes to a boil and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and place them back into the pan. Mash the potatoes with the milk/cream and butter. Stir in the grated cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spread mashed potatoes over the top of the beef mixture, spreading out evenly and from edge to edge. Rake through the potatoes with a fork to create peaks. Place the dish into the preheated oven and bake until browned, about 20 minutes. Spoon out the pie and serve. Serves 4-6.