I’ve had some ground beef sitting in my freezer for some time now, just waiting for divine inspiration to strike me in the forehead. And strike me it did! LA and I had been discussing the relative merits of shepherd’s pie and both realized that we haven’t had any in quite some time. Time for shepherd’s pie!
Now, technically, shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb. If the pie is made with ground beef, it becomes cottage pie. I’ve seen some very nasty comments on assorted websites from incensed Brits upset with our use of “shepherd’s pie” when we should be referring to it as “cottage pie”. Well, Limey, this is America and we can call it whatever we want. The French have resolved the problem completely by calling it hachis Parmentier, which loosely translates as “chopped meat with potatoes on top”.
I called it shepherd’s pie, and I also called it delicious. I’d love to give you the recipe I followed, but, as usual, I just threw stuff in a pan until it tasted right. Basically I softened an onion in butter and olive oil, then browned the ground beef in the same pan. When that was browned, I tossed in some minced garlic and fresh thyme. I then added beef broth, a few squirts of tomato paste (from my tomato paste toothpaste tube), some mustard powder, and salt and pepper. Since it was still a bit flat, I finished it with a bit of sherry. Just for flavor. I mashed some potatoes with a lot of butter and milk, then elegantly piped the potatoes onto the top of the meat mixture. A sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese and the pie was ready for the oven. Once the top was browned and golden, we were ready to eat.
In true British fashion, I served the shepherd’s pie with peas. At least, that’s how I had it in London. I thought it was very good, but not exactly how I wanted it. LA loved it, hot or cold. I actually thought it improved with a rest in the fridge overnight and enjoyed it reheated in the oven the next day. Now that I’m reminded of how good shepherd’s pie can be, I may have to make it more often than once every 3 years.