I call this recipe “Shepherds Pie, American Style” because I have read or heard much debate through the years about the authentic ingredients for shepherds, or cottage pie. While it is true that many might say “this is not Shepherds Pie if it contains no lamb!” I beg to differ. Oh yes, I am well aware that because it is made with beef as opposed to lamb that it should rightfully be called “Cottage Pie”. But that’s not what they called it when I learned to love it!
I apologize for bringing up my childhood twice in as many posts but is that not truly when many of our adult likes and dislikes are formed? When I was in elementary school one of my favorite, absolute favorite dishes on the cafeteria (or cafetorium) menu was named “Shepherd’s Pie” and this recipe is my rendition of that dish. This is how I remember it tasting and once again we’re talking comfort food, so this is how I prepare it.
Honestly, I won’t be insulted if you call it cottage pie; call it anything you like…what really matters to me is that it tastes good. After all if we were really going to get down to brass tacks then do you think that stuff they served at the “PTA Spaghetti Dinners” would pass as Spaghetti with a true Italian? Ha! I think not. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t gobble it up with enthusiasm each and every time I ate it. I hope you do the same with this recipe.
Notes: I use a fork to “rake” the top of the potatoes because I think it facilitates browning and creates a crispier crust. I do not use cheese because they didn’t use any when I was a kid. Please feel free to add anything you like to the recipe. (On that note, I think I will add a cup of chopped green onions to the potatoes the next time around.)
Shepherd’s Pie, American Style
1 Lb – Lean Ground Beef
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Onion, chopped
32 Oz – Lower Sodium Beef Broth
2-3 Tbsp – Red wine, chilled
2 Tbsp – HP (or A1) Steak sauce
2 Tbsp – Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp – Dried Thyme
1 Tbsp – Dried Tarragon
8 Oz – Frozen Sweet Peas
3 Lbs – Red Bliss Potatoes, cut in (roughly) 1 inch chunks
2 Cups – Low Fat Buttermilk, plus a little extra if needed
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
In a large sauté pan over medium heat warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Stir in carrots, celery, and onion along with ½ Tbsp each of thyme and tarragon. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions become translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the ground beef to the pan and break it up with a fork while stirring to mix. Add the remainder of the thyme and tarragon along with about ¼ tablespoon of pepper and the steak sauce. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the beef has browned. When the beef has browned and cooked through, add the broth and simmer while you prepare the potatoes.
Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover them by ½ inch. Add about 1/8 cup of kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
Pre-Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the beef & broth mixture has simmered at least 20 minutes, strain about 1 cup of the hot stock into a bowl. Add 2 -3 tablespoons of cold red wine and set aside to cool while you mash the potatoes.
When the potatoes are very tender carefully drain them in a colander or strainer allowing them to sit a few minutes to steam off excess moisture. Place hot potatoes in a large bowl and using a potato masher, dough cutter, or a large fork mash in about 1 cup of the buttermilk. Continue mashing until the liquid has been absorbed, then drizzle in the second cup of buttermilk while still mashing the potatoes. If the potatoes are still too dry drizzle in a little extra buttermilk, while mashing, until the mashed potatoes reach your desired consistency.
Whisk 2 Tbsp of flour into the reserved stock and wine mixture then stir this into the simmering beef mixture along with the frozen peas. Stir gently until everything is incorporated, heated through, and slightly thickened then spoon or pour the mixture into a 9” X 13” casserole. Using a spoon and your fingers if necessary spread the potatoes over the top of the beef mixture.
Before baking, smooth the top of the potatoes, then use the back of a fork to create parallel 1/8 inch deep “grooves” along the length of the entire dish to give the topping some texture. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and rest 10 minutes before serving.