I have done several variations of shepherd’s pie—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6. The traditional recipe calls for a stew covered in mashed potatoes. For this dish, I decided to try a break from tradition and—instead of mashing the potatoes—covered the stew with my mother’s parsley potatoes.
After Dinner Notes: Usually, I am feeding only three people in my house. When I buy a pound of meat I frequently only use ¾ of it. This leaves me with little ¼ pound packets of meat cluttering up my freezer. I decided to use up some of the beef and lamb and I mixed them together for this dish. While I liked the result, my wife, Jan—who is not overly fond of lamb—thought that the lamb over-powered the dish. Feel free to use the ground meat of your choice.
While this dish was generally a success I had some trouble with the parsley. The greens that ended up on top of the potatoes had burned before the potatoes were well browned on top. Next time, I will mix most of the parsley into the stew at the last minute and garnish the top with the remaining parsley during the last five minutes of baking.
Karl’s Rustic Shepherd’s Pie
½ lb. hamburger
½ lb lamb
½ tsp. baking powder mixed with 2 Tbs. warm water
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
1 cup onions, diced
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 cup leek, sliced finely
1 cup green beans, cut into ¼ inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
½ cup parsley, chopped finely, separate uses
1 lb. baby Dutch Yellow potatoes, chunked
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup green onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp pepper, to taste
¼ tsp. Kosher salt, to taste
1. Peel and chop the potatoes into medium, even chunks. Put them in a large pan and cover with water. Add the salt and put it on the stove. Do not turn on the burner at this point.
2. Put the meat(s), baking powder, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl and gently mix them together.
Tip: The warm water softens the fat and makes it easier to mix in the other ingredients.
Note: Do not overwork your meat. As you mix the proteins sill start to link up and make your meat tough. If you keep mixing you may turn it into sausage.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside.
4. Prep and measure and reserve all of your ingredients at this point.
5. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter.
6. Form the ground meat into a single large patty and brown it on both sides, 4-5 minutes per side.
Note: This has become my standard technique for browning ground meat. It is a Cook’s Illustrated technique that allows you get the flavor provided by the Maillard reaction, while still having most of the meat remaining moist and tender
7. Remove the meat to a plate and let it cool.
8. Without cleaning the pan, sauté celery and onions with the salt over medium high heat until the onions are just starting to pick up some color, about 5 minutes.
Tip: If you are using very fatty hamburger, you may need to remove some of the excess grease.
9. Turn the potatoes on to high heat at this point and when they come to a boil turn the heat down to medium.
10. Add the carrots, cabbage, and leeks to the pan.
Note: Over time I have been adding less meat and more and more vegetables to my dishes.
11. Continue sautéing until the vegetables are just softened (about 5 minutes).
12. Add the green beans and continue cooking for two more minutes.
Note: I do not particularly like peas, but it is almost a necessary ingredient to a traditional shepherd’s pie. My solution is to cut green beans into pea sized bits. If you wish you may add peas.
13. Scrape the vegetables to the edges of the pan and add the garlic to the hole.
14. Sauté the garlic until it is fragrant, about one minute and stir it into the vegetables.
15. Stir in the thyme, pepper, gravy, bouillon and Worcestershire sauce.
16. Using two forks, break the meat patty into small bite-sized pieces and add it to the stew.
Tip: Scrape any meat juices remaining on the plate into the pan.
17. Bring the stew to a simmer for a few minutes and then remove it from the heat to cool.
18. Check the potatoes for doneness.
Tip: When the potatoes are done, a knife will slide into the largest piece easily.
19. Drain the potatoes into a colander.
20. Melt the butter in the pot over a medium heat.
21. Sauté the green onions and garlic for one minute.
22. Return potatoes to the pot.
23. Add salt and pepper to taste and gently toss the potatoes to coat them with the butter and seasonings.
24. Butter or Pam a large casserole, set the oven rack to 5 inches from the broiler element and turn on the the broiler to preheat it.
Tip: You want to use a baking dish that is large enough to leave at least ¾ of an inch between the top of the stew and the lip of the dish, so that you can put the potatoes on top without them spilling over.
25. Stir most of the parsley into the stew and spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Note: Reserve two tablespoons of parsley for garnish
26. Gently spoon the potatoes over the stew to cover.
Note: You want the potatoes to float on top of the stew, not sink to the bottom.
27. Place casserole in the oven and broil until the potatoes are golden brown and crusty and the stew is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes.
28. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the shepherd’s pie 2-3 minutes before removing it from the broiler.
29. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.