A wonderfully tasty, filling and economical casserole, shepherd’s pie uses a combination of ground meat, gravy and vegetables topped with hearty mashed potatoes. Traditionally, ground lamb is the primary ingredient, but most American palates prefer ground beef. The beauty of this dish is that you can use whatever you like, including ground chicken, turkey or even roasted vegetables and nuts for a vegetarian entrée.
Start with Potatoes
This casserole is prepared in two parts. First, you have to get mashed potatoes done, so go ahead and peel one or two nice big Russet potatoes and get them in a pot to boil while you start to make the filling. If you want to add some spice to the topping of your shepherd’s pie, throw some garlic cloves into the water while the potatoes boil. Don’t worry about cutting them, they’ll get nice and soft while they’re cooking and will mash in with the potatoes.
Creating the Filling
Sauté about a pound of ground meat along with one minced onion, two diced carrots and three stalks of diced celery in a heavy bottom pan and add whatever herbs and spices you would like. This is a pretty savory dish, so use accompanying herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage or marjoram. To bring in a little extra kick, add a little paprika, nutmeg or allspice. After you’ve cooked your ground meat about seven to 10 minutes, turn off the heat and drain off any fat that has cooked off by tilting the pan and pouring it off into another metal container or sturdy glass measuring cup. Do not throw this fat away, because you are going to use it in the next step.
Making Easy Gravy
Before you start making the gravy, check on the potatoes. Are they ready to mash yet? If you can easily stick a knife all the way through them, they’re done. Drain them well, put them back in the pot and mash them with butter, salt and pepper. Put them back in the pot with the lid on to keep them warm.
Okay, so now we’re going to thicken the meat. It’s super easy. Use a measuring spoon and add 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour directly into the meat mixture. Turn the heat on low and stir the flour around for about one minute. Now, take the fat you’ve collected and pour that back into the pot. Turn the heat up under the pan a little bit until the meat starts to simmer and keep stirring until you see the mixture thicken. This will take about five minutes.
Putting It Together
Once your meat is nice and thick, go ahead and spoon it into your casserole dish, making a nice even layer. Then, top the meat with an even layer of mashed potatoes. You can add shredded cheese to the top if you like, or dust it with paprika. Pop the casserole into a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven and let it cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the mashed potatoes take on a nice, golden hue. Take the casserole out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before you cut into it.
This is an incredibly simple, cheap dish to make that often has great leftovers for lunch the next day. Experiment with different meat, vegetable and spice combinations to keep this meal on the monthly menu – without anyone getting tired of it!