When it comes to comfort food, many people harken back to their childhood. In my case, I harken back to someone else’s childhood. Growing up I didn’t eat mashed potatoes. Or if I did, my mom made them from a box of dried flakes in the amount needed for a specific meal. We certainly never had leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge, begging to be eaten or used in another dish.
Fast forward to my first years married to a guy who is as proud of his Irish ancestry as could be. I learned that mashed potatoes never come from a box and that one always makes a huge pile of them. Leftover mashed potatoes are not a problem or wasted food; they are the beginning of shepherd’s pie.
Shepherd’s pie is basically chopped meat and small pieces of vegetables, mixed with an herb, tomato, and Worcestershire sauce-seasoned broth, topped with mashed potatoes and baked. There are no fancy ingredients or techniques and leftover veggies work fine as long as you cut them up into small pieces. You can make individual pies in ramekins or oven-proof bowls or make a larger pie in a pie plate or casserole dish. It’s a great dish to freeze; easy to defrost and bake on a cold evening when you don’t have the energy to fuss.
Servings – 6 Cost - $15.50 ($2.50 per serving)
- 1 ½ - 1 ¾ chopped meat (I used beef, lamb and pork combined. Beef and lamb are traditional.)
- 2 tablespoons of oil (olive or canola)
- 4 cups (about 20 ounces) of chopped crunchy vegetables e.g. carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli, even parsnips – cut into pea-sized pieces
- ⅓ cup chopped, seeded tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes
- ⅓ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- ⅓ cup peas (frozen or fresh)
- 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme crumbled
- 1 teaspoon salt (for meat and vegetables), plus ¼ - ½ teaspoon more for mashed potatoes
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ pounds of small, red or Yukon gold potatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons of sour cream or mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons or more of butter (to dot on top of the mashed potatoes)
- Papkrika (o[tional) to sprinkle on top of casserole
- Cutting board
- 2 bowls
- Spoon to mix vegetables
- Measuring cups for liquid and solids
- Measuring spoons
- Pot for boiling potatoes
- Electric mixer or potato masher
- Large skillet
- Large fork
- Slotted spoon (with holes) to drain fat from meat
- Large spoon
- Deep dish pie plate (9-10”) or other oven-proof casserole dish(es) with high sides.
- Cookie sheet (to catch any drippings) when baking the pie.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the crunchy vegetables. Which ones you use doesn’t matter as long as they offer a nice array of colors, and are all cut into roughly the size of peas. If begin to obsess over the size of the pieces, remember that everything gets mixed together except for the potatoes on top. Set them aside in a bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes and parsley. Set them aside with the peas.
- Wash the potatoes and cut them into quarters. (I leave the skins on. You can peel them if you prefer.) Put them into the pot covered with cold water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and turn the heat down slightly. Continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes until the potato chunks are soft enough for a fork to go through them easily.
- Drain most, but not all of the water out of the potatoes – leaving perhaps ⅓ - ½ cup of water in the pot. Add sour cream or mayonnaise,salt and pepper to taste, and mash them. Set the potatoes aside. (I use a handheld electric mixer, but an old-fashioned potato masher or even a mallet will work.) By the way, I ran out of red potatoes and added a few Yukon golds. No harm in mixing them.
- Cook the chopped meat until it is no longer red or pink. Drain the fat by taking the meat out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Put any drained fat in the freezer in a container for later disposal (Usually I wash and reuse use an aluminum can from beans or tomato paste for this purpose, keeping the can in the freezer and adding fat until it is full, when I throw it out. Do not put fat down the sink!!) Set the meat aside in a bowl.
- Heat the pan that the meat was cooked in and add the oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the crunchy vegetables and cook them for 5-8 minutes or so. They should remain crisp, but taste cooked.
- Add the cooked chopped meat back in, add the chopped tomatoes, parsley and peas. Stir and cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rosemary, thyme, the teaspoon of salt and the flour. Mix well and cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Slowly add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil and simmer the mixture for 5-10 minutes. I had frozen homemade beef broth but boxed or canned works fine. (If you buy broth, consider a low sodium version and if necessary, lessen the amount of salt you add to the vegetables and meat mixture in step #9 above.
- Place the mixture in the baking dish, top with mashed potatoes (pushing potatoes to the edge of the casserole to seal in the meat and vegetables) and run a fork over the top or make indentations if you like crunchy peaks before topping the potatoes with dots of butter and sprinkle paprika. Cook for 20-30 minutes with a sheet pan underneath the casserole to catch any drippings.
Let the shepherd's pie sit for 5 minutes before cutting in or serving individual ramekins.