St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner so I decided to make a Shepherd’s Pie to get in the spirit of my best friend’s favorite holiday. I used a recipe from epicurious as a guide. I’m not big on meat and potatoes and Irish cuisine is not something I regularly whip up, but Shepherd’s Pie holds a special place in my heart. The first time I ever had Shepherd’s Pie was in the dorms at Wellesley College. The thought of dorm food might make some of you cringe, but honestly, our dining halls (especially the full salad bars) were pretty good. Shepherd’s Pie conjures up memories of my college roomie and I strolling down for dinner in the dining hall where it was regularly served in meat and vegetarian forms. Hand’s down, my favorite part of Shepherd’s Pie is the mashed potatoes.
Shepherd’s Pie is often made with lamb, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I made my version with ground beef. According to Wikipedia, Shepherd’s Pie is also known as Cottage Pie and was a way to introduce potatoes as an affordable crop for human consumption. My complaint about Shepherd’s Pie is the weightiness. It is heavy and often disappointingly bland. I did my best to spruce up my version with the addition of parnsips, red pepper flakes, and extra herbs, but I still found myself enjoying it more with some Frank’s Hot Sauce dabbled on top. Of course, if you are looking for a nice hangover friendly food on St. Patty’s Day, this one could be just the ticket.
With that, I’ll leave you with my meal plan for this week.
2 pounds (about 3-4 large) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup, peeled, chopped parsnips
1 pound ground beef or lamb (or combination of the two)
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup of beef or chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
¼ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
Pre-heat oven to 375F.
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water, salt generously, and boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and cook 3-4 minutes. Then, add the garlic and parsnips, cook for another minute, then add the meat and cook, mixing occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and the meat is browned, about 5-7 minutes.
Drain the fat from the sauté pan and add the rosemary, red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of the dried parsley. Stir to incorporate the herbs. Then, push the meat and veggies to the side and make a small space, exposing the bottom of the pan, and add the tomato paste. Toast the tomato paste for 15-20 seconds, then stir to incorporate the paste with the rest of the ingredients. Add the broth and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Bring the liquids to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat until the broth and juices begin to thicken.
While the meat and veggies are cooking, your potatoes are probably ready, so drain the potatoes. Add the butter, milk, sour cream (or yogurt), and remaining tablespoon of parsley to the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher or use an immersion blender to mash and smooth the potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
After the potatoes are mashed, the liquids from the meat and veggies should be thicker. Add the frozen peas, stirring to incorporate.
Assemble your grand creation! In a large baking dish (11 x 17 will probably work best), spread the meat and veggie mixture evenly into the pan. Top by spreading the mashed potatoes with a rubber spatula, taking care to seal the edges with the potatoes to prevent the juices from bubbling up. I find the easiest way to do this is to drop large spoonfuls of the potatoes over the meat and veggies and then spreading and smoothing with a rubber spatula. I like to create a little design over the potatoes by running a fork lightly over the top of the potatoes.
Bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are golden, about 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving! Pour a glass a beer and drink to the Irish!