Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

So the first time I had Shepherd's Pie was at the cafeteria at the bank where I was working. It was awful. Canned vegetables, hamburger, and beef broth (that may be too generous, probably mostly water) topped with instant mashed potatoes and served. Did I mention it was bad? This recipe from Cook's Country (can you tell I like this one?) has many layers of flavor and no mushy veggies. The only change I made this time was to bake the pie before brushing the top with egg and broiling. This worked much better. Usually the brush knocks down the potatoes and makes an eggy mess. Still very tasty when it's done, but it was much easier to brush with egg after the potatoes were firm. The only really annoying part of this recipe is that the potatoes are really thick. It is hard to spread them on top of the filling. So I drop on little spoonfuls and try to smear them together. But the consistency at the end is very good, so I haven't tried thinning the potatoes. I'm thinking smushing them through a hole in the corner of a gallon bag may be the easiest way to go. But I haven't tried it yet. We usually use Guinness, but I would guess whatever beer you like to drink would work.

Shepherd's Pie

Although just about any mild beer will work in this recipe, we particularly enjoyed the sweet flavor of O’Doul’s nonalcoholic amber.

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion , chopped fine
2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped fine
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

Table salt and ground black pepper
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup beer (see note above)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup frozen peas

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes . peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

Table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1/3 cup heavy cream , warmed

Ground black pepper
1 large egg , beaten

1. For the filling: Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onion and carrots and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add meat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 12 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute.

2. Add cream and cook until it spatters, about 1 minute. Add broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick but still saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in peas, adjust seasonings, and transfer to broilersafe 2-quart casserole dish.

3. For the topping: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water to cover to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to saucepan, and mash potatoes with butter and cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread potatoes over filling, using spatula to smooth top (see photo). Brush with egg and drag fork across top to make ridges. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Make Ahead

Make the filling through step 2, but do not add the peas. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. When ready to proceed, reheat the filling in a large saucepan, stir in the peas, and transfer to a broilersafe 2-quart casserole. Proceed with the recipe from step 3.

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