When I think of Shepherd's Pie, I think of the one my mom made with corn and green peas, neither of which I enjoyed as a child. I was not a fan of Shepherd's Pie growing up. I never understood the corn. Why corn??? Also, meat and potatoes is something I came to love over time. A perfectly grilled steak with a baked potato or, my favorite, potatoes au gratin. There was something so very familiar and warming about that meal. So I started re-thinking Shepherd's Pie. I wanted to make a truly worthy winter comfort food: shepherd's pie - my way. No green peas and no freaking corn.
Comfort Food: Shepherd's Pie My Way Has a Meat & Potatoes Focus
I realize there are a grillion ways to make Shepherd's Pie. People have opinions. Strong opinions. For me, I wanted this to be a celebration of meat and potatoes. There is no "freaking corn," as mentioned above. There will be no carrots or even traditional green peas. No celery, though a strong case could be made since I love the flavor celery adds. No laboriously piped-onto-the-top mashed potatoes in an intricate design that doesn't matter.
Shepherd's Pie My Way is all about simplicity. I wanted this to be an easy go-to meal that cuts a few corners in process, but never flavor. I opted for the pigeon peas because I fell in love with them as I was developing my Beef & Cheese Empanada recipe (which I highly recommend you try - awesome for football game fare). The pigeon pea has a nuttier more savory flavor rather than a sweet green pea flavor. Combined with the beef, its a delicious combination!
Low-maintenance Layers with Awesome Flavors
The bottom layer is ground beef, obviously. With a simple mixture of onions, pigeon peas and garlic we'll add that to the ground beef with dried thyme, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth. The flavors come together beautifully. I kicked it up a notch with the mashed potatoes by adding shredded cheddar and parmesan to the mashed tater mix. Why have plain mashed potatoes when you can add cheese? Seriously, the layers of flavor are to die for. If you're wondering how to get that golden brown top - I'll end the suspense. Half-way through cooking, I removed it from the oven and sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. Back in the oven to finish it off and the result is a golden, crispy layer of pure culinary pleasure.
Cooking for a crowd has never been easier. This will be an instant classic with your friends and family. It also freezes really well which is a bonus! Just wait until the next day to slice into portions for the freezer. Take it out on another night when you don't feel like cooking.
I really hope you enjoy this recipe and share it with your loved ones. Take the time to make delicious food. Share a meal and conversation with your family.
If you are looking for other sure-fire winners, you should try my One-Pan Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Potatoes - another meat and potatoes comfort food delight! My Chicken & Broccoli Penne Pasts w/Garlic White Wine Sauce is another crowd pleaser.
- You can use the beef broth in a can or container. I used one beef bouillon cube that I heated in a cup of water. I used slightly more than one cup of water since I was heating it on the stove top and there may be a small amount of evaporation.
- If you are freezing portions of the Shepherd’s Pie, wait until the next day to cut it. Once it’s refrigerated overnight, it will be easier to cut into portions. I usually double or triple wrap in plastic wrap and use a Sharpie to label the outside.
- The ground beef. They package it different in every store. The day I went shopping, I bought two packages that totaled 2.3 pounds of beef. I’m sure if you used a little more or a little less that will be fine.
- If you're making ahead (like for a holiday or Super Bowl), add the mashed potato layer, let it cool down a bit, then cover and refrigerate. When you're ready, take out of fridge and let it sit for 20 minutes on counter. Then bake it in the oven as you normally would. Take out at the half-way point to add the additional fresh shredded parmesan cheese to the top so you get that nice crust!