Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's Shepherd's Pie Time

Mainer’s have a different idea about what Shepherd’s Pie is than what I was accustomed to. And if you tell a Mainer that their version is not what you have typically seen or had before – they will look at you like you have 3 heads, or that you are simply “from away.” Typically the Maine version contains ground beef, corn kernels, and some kind of gravy flavoring, all topped with mashed potato.
I know that the beauty of Shepherd’s Pie is its versatility, but I had always viewed it as a one dish meal; or an easy, cheap, pretty good tasting meal. I was brought up with Shepherd’s Pie being ground beef, mixed frozen veggies, baked in a pie shell and topped with mashed potatoes. You can make this meal for under $10 and that includes buying natural free range beef.
I made Shepherd’s pie for Joe once early on in our relationship. He was blown away. He ate the two pies I made all week for various meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. He wasn’t so much impressed by my skills at adding frozen vegetables and cooked ground beef into a frozen pie shell and baking it, but by it’s simplicity and inherent comfort.
Shepherd’s Pie traditionally (or so I have read) was chunks of mutton cooked with some root vegetables and topped with more root vegetables. If you happen upon a good Irish pub in the states you may get this. I can’t speak to what the dish is in the British Isles, but in my dreams it is lamb stew with a crust and potatoes. But I think you can really play around with this dish to make it fit your tastes.
Crust or no crust. Frozen mixed vegetable, or fresh organic root vegetables. Instant mashed potatoes or fresh mashed Yukon gold potatoes mixed with celeriac. Or ground beef or natural organic ground lamb. It’s all up to you and your budget. At this time of year when the wind is howling and rain is slamming your windows, it’s nice to have the smell of comfort emanating from your oven.
Shepherd’s Pie
The basic formula is meat + veg + mashed potatoes. Expand upon that as you wish. The pie in these photos is made from the recipe below.

For the Topping
5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” chunks
½ a medium celeriac, peeled and chopped into ½” chunks
2 Tb butter
¼ c milk (or more)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pie
1 frozen deep dish pie shell

1 lb ground lamb
4 small carrots, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, diced
3 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp all spice
Salt and pepper to taste
Beef Broth (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°. Place chopped potatoes and celeriac in a sauce pan of water and boil until fork tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté ground lamb, onions and garlic together in a large pan. Once the onions are translucent and the meat is mostly browned, add the leek and carrots. Stir to combine and continue cooking until the meat is completely cooked through. At this point, you can either drain off most of the fat from your pan, or if you are using a leaner meat, decide if you need to add some beef broth. The meat mixture should be moist but not very wet. We’re looking for saucy here. Then add the Worcestershire sauce and spices, stirring to combine. Taste for seasonings.

Spoon the meat mixture into the frozen pie shell.

Drain the potatoes and celeriac. Mash together with milk and butter, adding salt and pepper as desired.

Dot the top of the pie with mashed vegetables, and smooth to coat the top of the pie evenly.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes until the mashed potatoes have browned lightly and the crust is cooked.

Let the pie cool for as long as you can stand to wait, then cut and serve.

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