I love shepherd’s pie, and my son seems to have inherited that taste. Between the two of us, we consume an obscene amount of the stuff every time I make a batch of it. This usually happens when my wife finds a surplus of ground meat or mashed potatoes in the refrigerator. “Hey, how about making shepherd’s pie?” is her sweetly-expressed demand, one I find hard to resist. You probably even have the ingredients in hand: the beef left over last time you made hamburgers. My recipe has evolved a lot over the years. Here’s the current edition.
- 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 cup milk
- 1 stick butter
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/3 medium bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 2 lbs. ground sirloin or round
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp. marjoram
- Pinch Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 cup chopped squash, zucchini, or corn
- 1 lb. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Boil the potatoes until soft, but not disintegrating. Drain. Put the potatoes into a deep bowl and add the butter (in chunks), salt, white pepper, and hot milk. Using a heavy wire whisk or potato masher, mash the potatoes, leaving small lumps. Set aside, covered.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and bell peppers until soft, but not browned.
3. Break the ground beef into the pan and add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire, soy sauce, marjoram, dry mustard and about 2 Tbs. water. Saute, breaking up the clumps of beef with a kitchen fork. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid in the pan is gone. Remove from heat.
4. Cover the bottom of a 4x9x3 ceramic or glass baking dish with the squash, zucchini, and/or corn. Cover that with a thin layer of mashed potatoes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef mixture to the baking dish. Top it with the remaining creamed potatoes. (Tip: spoon the potatoes into the center of the dish in a big pile and spread it out to the edges, to minimize mixing with the meat.)
5. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the cheese just browns–35-40 minutes.
6. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving, so that you can cut out large cubes. (Also, the heat of the interior will be lava-like for awhile.)
Serves six generously.