Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie


The first time I had Shepherd's Pie I was in college. It was a monthly staple in our dining hall during the winter months, probably because it was relatively cheap and incredibly filling. The Shepherd's Pie from my college days could be a mix of whatever vegetables were in the cooler or just ground beef and cheese, but that was part of the fun! You never really knew what you were in for.

When I got my Everyday Food magazine earlier this month I was excited to see a version of Shepherd's Pie featured in the one-pot meal section. Funny thing about one-pot meals...you usually have more than one pot wash when it's time to do the dishes. Anyway, I digress. This meal was really filling, very comforting, and relatively simple, though next time I'll cut out a few of the steps and make it a little more weeknight friendly.

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie

2 lbs. baking potatoes (approx. 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Salt
Pepper
1 T. vegetable oil
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 c. milk
1 c. water
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and boil for 15-20 minutes in salted water.

Heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender (8-10 minutes). Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, one minute.

Add beef, cook and stir occasionally until no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Add 1 cup water, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, 1 minute. Set beef and filling aside.

Drain potatoes, return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add milk and 1 cup of cheese. Mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour beef filling into a 13 x. 9 inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling, spread to edges with a spatula. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
  • This is a heavy meal. Literally. I was surprised by how heavy it was when I lifted the Pyrex dish.
  • I love making real mashed potatoes, and while this topping was okay, next time I'll either make it early or use fake mashed potatoes to speed up the prep process. Don't judge me...sometimes a girl's gotta use a shortcut.
  • I used 1 cup beef stock instead of water when I made the filling, and I think it added a ton of flavor to this meal. It didn't boil as quickly, but I think it tasted so much better and it really helped season the beef.
  • I think you could parcook the vegetables and you'd get flavorful and crisp veggies in your pie. While mine were flavorful, they were lacking a little in color.

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