You can make mashed potatoes, right? And you can brown ground beef? Boom! You can make shepherd’s pie. It’s one of the easiest, coziest and most adaptable suppers around. All the things you love about one-pot or sheet pan cooking ring true about shepherd’s pie, it’s a self-contained meal that checks the protein, veggie and carb boxes. Now that the weather is finally exhibiting fall-like symptoms, treat yourself to this crowd-pleasing comfort food, which can be easily modified to fit your preferences.
In its classic British form, shepherd’s pie is made with leftover roast lamb, cooked down in a gravy with onions, peas and carrots. It’s famously topped with mashed potatoes and baked slightly until the potatoes are browned. No surprise, most American recipes these days feature ground beef, although plenty of them also feature ground lamb.
To make 4 to 6 servings, sauté 2 pounds of meat along with chopped onion, diced fresh carrots, thawed frozen peas, a couple of tablespoons tomato paste, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a couple of tablespoons of flour, a cup of chicken stock, fresh rosemary or thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Once this mixture is nicely combined, pour it in a baking vessel. Prepare mashed potatoes with 2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and boiled until tender. Make them the way you normally would, but beat in one egg yolk as well. Spread the potatoes evenly until the meat mixture is covered. Sprinkle on a little paprika, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Within those loose guardrails, you can vary this dish to your heart’s content, tweaking it to fit dietary and palate preferences.
Here are a few ideas.
Follow the directions above, but throw in some chopped fresh mushrooms and corn. Sauté minced garlic, celery and bell pepper with the onions. Leeks and shallots are also delicious. Add red wine and substitute beef for chicken broth. Top the dish with roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
Turkey and sweet potato
Lighten things up by using ground turkey instead of ground beef for your protein base, topped with mashed sweet potatoes spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Use a plant-based meat substitute, or simply rely on a robust combination of vegetables and legumes in a thick mushroom gravy. Turnips are a great addition. So are canned, drained red beans or white beans, and of course, cooked lentils.
Eliminate the tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of flour, compensating with fat from the sautéed ground beef. Instead of mashed potatoes, use mashed cauliflower and top it with grated cheddar before baking. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped chives and scallions.
This version riffs on another homey favorite, chicken pot pie. Start by sautéing chopped onion, carrots and celery in butter. Whisk in a couple of tablespoons flour, and add chopped fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. Whisk in chicken stock, and let thicken. Add a couple of cups of roast chicken. Use this creamy chicken mixture as your base, and top as usual with mashed potatoes.
Maggie Heyn Richardson is a regular 225 contributor. Reach her at hungryforlouisiana.com.