The first time I had Shepherd's Pie was junior year of college, when my lovely roommate, Haydn Galloway, made it for me. Being that Haydn is from England, I was certain the dish I had that night was everything Shepherd's Pie is supposed to be and more. It is such a comfort food, combining beef with potatoes and veggies. On a day like today (cloudy, cold and rainy) it was all I could think about all day at work, and I knew I had to make it once I arrived home for dinner.
Recipe yields 6 servings
4 large russet potatoes
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Ground paprika, to top
1 lb lean chopped meat
2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 cup each peas, green beans and carrots (I cheated and used a mixed bag of frozen veggies)
1 cup beef broth
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 tsp ground thyme
Peel and dice potatoes into 1/2" cubes. Add to a stockpot filled with water. Bring water to a boil and cook potatoes 10-12 minutes. Potatoes should be easily pierced with a fork. (Hint: You want them soft enough so that you can mash them, if you aren't that strong, cook them longer and they will be softer and easier to mash. But remember, don't cook them too long or they will begin to crumble in the water.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the potatoes are cooking, begin to prep and cook the beef mixture. Finely dice the onion. Heat oil in a large saute pan and add the onions. Cook until tender.
Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until no longer pink, about 5-8 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the beef broth, tomato paste, Worcester sauce and thyme. Stir well to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add salt and pepper, to taste, if necessary. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until gravy has thickened. (Helpful Hint: If your gravy seems to be very watery, whisk in a teaspoon of flour, being careful to evenly spread it so that it doesn't form clumps.)
Pour beef mixture into a casserole or baking dish and set aside.
When potatoes are done cooking, drain them and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add milk, a pinch of salt and pinch of pepper to the potatoes. Mash until the mixture achieves your desired consistency. Taste the potatoes and add more salt if necessary. Add the potatoes to the baking dish on top of the meat mixture. Try to spread them evenly to create a top layer. Using a fork, gently create ridges in the potatoes. When in the oven, these peaks with brown and become crispy, which is delicious! Sprinkle paprika over the top of the potatoes and then place your dish in the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!