British foods can be somewhat boring. They tend to be bland without a lot of seasoning. To complete our tribute to Wimbledon and England, I thought I would take the very traditional British Shepherd’s Pie and see if I couldn’t spice it up a bit, maybe by putting an American spin on it. I love fun challenges like this! Shepherd’s Pie, a dish made with roasted meats and vegetables covered with a mashed potato crust, was originally developed to utilize leftovers. Cube the leftover meat and combine with cooked vegetables, add a little beef gravy and voilà, you have the filling! Use the leftover mashed potatoes to create a topping, pop it under the broiler until golden, and you have a filling delicious meal. Finding ways to reinvigorate leftovers is a mother’s chore and a recipe developers delight.
Sometimes called “Cottage Pie,” you typically see this with leftover roast beef, lamb, or mutton. In America it is most often made with ground beef. By spending a little more and buying either chuck or London broil, you can elevate this to a gourmet course. To combat the often boring aspect of this dish, I add lots of flavorful vegetables and fresh herbs. Starting with a cross between mirepoix and the Holy Trinity of Cajun/Creole cooking brings a real depth of flavor that blends beautifully with the beef. The herbs bring a brightness and freshness to the dish.
Garlic mashed potatoes are all the craze right now and most of them drive me crazy! People think if they throw in a handful of raw chopped garlic that it makes potatoes taste great – I think it makes them taste awful! The garlic overpowers the delicate flavor of the potatoes and you bite down on harsh, raw bits. There are two ways to make garlic mashed potatoes that are perfectly balanced. You can use roasted garlic or you can infuse the cream. I prefer infusing because most of the time I don’t have roasted garlic cloves on hand. This method imparts the flavor while leaving the potatoes smooth and creamy.
Another benefit of this dish is that you can prepare it completely ahead of time and bake the next day. This makes it perfect for dinner parties and potlucks. Your friends who swore they hated Shepherd’s Pie, will now be groveling at your feet begging, “Please, may I have some more” … just like Oliver Twist! Cheerio!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you spread the potatoes over the meat filing, think of a Lemon Meringue Pie and use a fork or spatula to create swirls and peaks in the potatoes. These will brown faster than the rest and create a beautiful design. Creating a repeating pattern will make this look like a professional chef made it! You can also make the filling for this in a slow cooker and it will be absolutely delicious. To use this method, place the filling ingredients in the insert, set it for Low and cook for about 8 hours (on High for about 6), or until meat is fork tender. Transfer it hot to a baking dish, top with mashed potatoes and bake or broil until potatoes are golden brown. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.
- Mashed Potatoes
- 1-1/2 to 2 lb Russet (Idaho) potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 to 2 cups heavy cream, half and half, or milk
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme plus 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and white pepper
- Beef Filling
- 1-1/2 lb finely cubed chuck, London broil or ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3/4 cup each chopped carrot, celery, and bell pepper (or other vegetables that you like)
- 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
- 1/2 cup beef broth, plus more if needed
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup frozen petite peas (no need to thaw)
- 2 tbsp chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook potatoes in boiling well-salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain in a colander and then return to the now empty pot to dry out slightly.
- While potatoes are cooking, warm cream in a small saucepan with smashed garlic and thyme sprigs. Scald lightly (bring to just under a boil) and then turn heat down to low. The garlic will infuse the cream for a subtle, not in-your-face flavor.
- Meanwhile, sauté onions, carrot, celery, and bell pepper in butter over medium heat until tender, about 15 min. Add beef and sauté until no longer pink. If you are using ground beef, break up large clumps and once browned, pour off excess fat. Sprinkle with flour and cook for about 2 minutes (this gets rid if the raw flour flavor). Stir in rosemary, broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and pepper. Cook, uncovered for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to make a thick gravy. Stir in peas and transfer mixture to a 9x13-inch baking pan.
- Remove smashed garlic and thyme sprigs from hot cream and discard. Mash potatoes by hand or with an electric mixer (never use a food processor), using enough cream for very soft, not stiff potatoes, as they will dry out slightly in the oven. Stir in thyme leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread mashed potatoes on top of meat mixture. Any peaks in the potatoes will be brown faster than the rest and create a nice design. Sprinkle with chives. Cook in preheated oven until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown (about 20 to 30 minutes). Place under the broiler for last few minutes if needed to finish browning. Remove from oven and let stand about 15 minutes before serving.
- Yield: about 4 servings