Fun fact of the day: did you know if you make your shepherd’s pie with ground beef, it’s not shepherd’s pie? It’s actually called cottage pie. True, authentic shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb. But, I grew up calling it shepherd’s pie and I’ll be darned if I stop now. I know…I’m such a rebel! I wanted to share recipes on here because very rarely do I: follow a recipe, make anything the same way twice, or have the ability to tell people how to recreate something in their own home. It’s just not how I cook, but this was a nice challenge! There will be some guesstimations and vague(ish) measurements/descriptions, so if that’s something that makes you bonkers–probably not the right person to be getting recipes from!
I grew up having shepherd’s pie that included: mashed potatoes out of a box, super salty gravy from a jar, and the old stand-by frozen vegetable medley. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that recipe. My mom still makes it that way and I will shamelessly scarf down a couple bowls. That’s just not how I roll when I am making something (Ma, if you’re reading this–it’s not a dig at you!) This particular recipe includes homemade mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and (mostly) fresh veggies from either my garden or the farmstand down the road. If you’re itching to see the recipe and skip the step-by-step with photo accompaniment, scroll on down, my friend!
The cast of characters: 6 tiny carrots from our garden, a pound of ground beef, three ears of corn, an onion, two cloves of garlic, three large red potatoes and three small russets, green beans, thyme, rosemary, sage, and beef broth
First things first, start off browning your ground beef. I get mine from a local farm and it really isn’t greasy at all. I add two teaspoons of worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper. If your beef is greasy, drain the grease off before seasoning it. Ready for a kitchen hack? I have weird texture issues about some stuff. I despise large hunks of ground beef in things–tacos, casseroles, burritos…no thank you! My potato masher works amazing at breaking up the beef! While the beef is browning, chop up the carrots and onion–size is dependent on how you like things. I usually go on the smaller side because I have two small kiddos.
When your beef is browned, put it in a bowl and set it aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and throw in the carrots and onion. Saute them over medium low until the onions are translucent and the carrots aren’t super hard. Right before you are done, add the garlic in. I don’t like to add it in too soon and risk burning it. Meanwhile, cut the corn off the cob. The easiest way I have found (kitchen hack!) is to use a bundt pan. Otherwise, corn goes everywhere! Chop up the herbs while you’re sauteing the veggies.
Once you’re done with the corn, work on the mashed potatoes. I found another great hack a couple years ago. I don’t know about you, but I HAAAATE boiling potatoes. Now, I cut them into reasonable chunks, cover the bowl with saran wrap, poke a small vent hole in the top, and microwave! My new microwave takes longer than our old one–these took about 13 minutes. The potatoes have the consistency of more of a baked potato–when I am feeling fancy I put them in my mixer and whip the heck out of them! Add in butter, milk, salt, and pepper to your liking. One of the most important tips I can give for cooking: taste as you go! My mashed potatoes needed a little extra seasoning the first time I tasted them. Set the potatoes aside and move on!
Remove the veggies from the pan and set them aside. It’s time for the gravy, baby! I do mine with a roux–fancy name for butter and flour that makes the thickening magic happen. Take 4 tablespoons of butter and melt over low heat. Once it’s melted, add 1/4 cup of flour to the pan and whisk it together until it forms a paste. I personally like to let my roux cook for about 5 minutes to get the flour taste out. Cooking it out gives it almost a nutty flavor–super yummy in hearty dishes! Now, there are some places that will say you need to stand over the stove and whisk constantly–I am not one of those. I’m not saying go take a shower while it cooks off, but you don’t need to babysit it. I whisk it a couple times a minute.
It’ll get all fun and bubbly and now is the time you add the beef stock. This IS where you need to whisk constantly for a bit, unless you want lumpy gravy. Slowly add a bit of the beef stock in and whisk, whisk, whisk! Add it in slowly, whisking the whole time until all of the beef stock has been added. Again, this is where you don’t need to babysit the gravy. Be sure to whisk it every minute or so to monitor the thickness. When it is as thick as you like, add in the chopped herbs and some pepper.
So…confession: the beans I had picked were actually pretty gnarly and I gave them to my chickens. I threw in some frozen peas for the green color. Throw the beef, cooked veggies, and corn into the gravy and mix it all around. I do cook it for a couple minutes on low because of the frozen veggies. Pour the mixture into your casserole dish of choice.
Plunk the potatoes on top of the mixture and spread it around as much as you can. I try to make sure the edges of the potatoes “seal” up on the sides of the dish, but it usually never works! I saw a neat trick in a recipe for cottage pie I tried awhile back–take a fork and rough up the surface of the mashed potato. The peaks get all crispy and brown in the oven–YUM! I like to add one more touch to mine–finely grated Parmesan cheese. It makes the most delicious crust on the top. Pop the pie into a 375* oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the gravy is bubbling up the sides. If you choose to add the cheese, pop it under the broiler for a minute to get the brown goodness!
This recipe would work with frozen veggies, too. I chose to use fresh because they’re abundant in my area right now. This dish also freezes great–just store it after making it. Defrost overnight in the fridge and cook the same way. If you happen to forget, like someone may have, it takes about an hour to cook from frozen.
Prep time: 30 minutes Difficulty: Easy Cook Time: 30 minutes Servings: 6-8
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 6 small or 3 large carrots
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 ears of corn
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 4-5 large red potatoes
- butter and milk for potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 24 ounces beef stock
- 1 tablespoon each: chopped thyme, rosemary, and sage
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add in ground beef and brown, chopping up into small pieces. If lean ground beef, add in two teaspoons of Worcestershire and salt and pepper to taste. If it’s on the greasy side, drain the beef and then season.
While the beef is browning, chop up the carrots, onion, and garlic–set the garlic aside. When the beef is done, put it in a bowl and add some olive oil to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium low and saute the carrots and onion until the onions are translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Cut the corn off the cob while the veggies cook. Using a bundt pan, cut the kernels off the cob. Set them aside.
To make the mashed potatoes, cut the larger potatoes into quarters. Put them in a bowl, cover with saran wrap, poke a vent hole, and microwave for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are mashable. Mash the potatoes, adding in butter and milk until they’re the consistency you like. Add in salt and pepper to taste.
When the veggies are done sauteing, put them in a bowl. Add in 4 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and melt over low heat. Add in the flour once the butter is melted and whisk together until it forms a paste. Let it cook off for about 5 minutes, whisking a couple times every minute. After the 5 minutes, slowly add in the beef stock, whisking constantly so lumps don’t form. Let the gravy cook out until it reaches the thickness you like. Once it’s thick enough, add in the herbs and pepper to taste.
Put the beef, cooked veggies, corn, and peas into the gravy. Stir it together to combine. Put the mixture in a casserole dish and cover with the mashed potatoes. If you’re feeling frisky, fluff up the potatoes with a fork to give it texture. Cook the casserole in a preheated 375* oven for 20-30 minutes until the gravy is bubbling up the sides.