Part Package, Park Pluck Makes a Great Shepherd’s Pie
Funny Motivational Speaker and Celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli Making a Shepherd’s Pie
One doesn’t think of New York or the mountains of Georgia when it comes to shepherd’s pie. The original recipe comes from the British Isles and you’ll find recipes for English, Irish and Scottish shepherd’s pie. But somewhere in New York there is a chef preparing a dish with tender center cut grass-feed lamb, minced with seasonal vegetables and spices in a Pinot Noir reduction topped with smashed fingerling potatoes, baked in a tandoori oven and then finished off with a pastry torch.
And somewhere in Georgia there’s a mom who took some hamburger helper, mixed in some frozen peas and carrots and spread yesterday’s mashed potatoes on top and served it up with plenty of hot sauce on the side. I don’t care what you call it you can make this dish as complicated or simple as you like and it can be delicious.
The thought of making shepherds pie hadn’t crossed my mind until I saw a seasoning package for shepherd’s pie. Also had some garden potatoes that weren’t getting any fresher.
The shepherd’s pie recipe mix I used was made by Schwartz. Those of you who know me see the irony in this. If using a package mix follow the directions on the individual package and add any of the things you like about from the recipe below. It’s probably just as easy to make it from scratch and you’re less likely to get a paper cut. Plus Schwartz isn’t local for me. Those of you reading this in England may know Schwartz but it’s not a normal brand in the States. Check out their facebook page:
You can put in as many or as little vegetables as you like, season it with anything you like and make it any texture (grated, minced, diced) you like, but as long as you spread mashed potatoes on top and bake it, you got shepherd’s pie.
FOR THE POTATOES
2 pounds peeled, cleaned and cooked any kind of potato you want.
Half stick of butter
Half cup cream or half and half (okay 2% if you have to)
1 cup fresh Parmesan Reggiano cheese or anything from a green box
Salt and pepper to your taste
1 egg yolk optional (add richness to the potatoes nice even browning after baking.
Note: Richness = Cholesterol
Peel the potatoes and cut into ½ cubes. Place in a saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to simmer and cook until tender about 10 to 15 minutes. If a knife stuck into the middle of a potato comes out easily the potatoes are done. If the potato is stuck on the knife, keep cooking.
If you can multitask you can start on the meat mixture while the potatoes are cooking.
Drain the potatoes and let cool for a couple of minutes. Careful handling hot potatoes. Mash the potatoes the way you like to mash. I like to use a ricer because all the potatoes are rendered the same consistency. This makes it a lot easier to mash when you start adding the liquid and fat. There’e no need for a hand mixer or blender.
Add softened butter and mix. Add cream and mix. Add ½ cup of parmesan cheese and mix. If the potatoes look dry add a little more cream. Salt and pepper to taste. If you’re using egg yolk stir that in until incorporated. Set aside as you prepare the filling.
THE MEAT FILLING
1 – 1 ½ pounds ground lamb or lean ground beef (I used a pound of organic beef)
2 Tbls Olive oil
1 large onion diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup red wine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Brown meat in a little olive oil unless there’s a lot of fat visible in your meat. Remove the meat while there’s still some pink. Pour off all but 2 TBL of fat. Add the onion and cook stirring to degrease the pan about 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic cook another 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and continue to cook, chopping up the meat some more in the pan.
In a separate sauce pan make the gravy by melting 2 tablespoons of butter and mixi in the flour. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, wine, Worcestershire, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. The longer you cook it the thicker it should get. Add the gravy to the meat mixture along with the peas. Mix well.
Spread the meat mixture evenly into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, smoothing them out with a rubber spatula. Bring the potatoes all the way to the edge to make a seal. This way the sauce won’t bubble up over the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top and place in a 350 degree over for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes have a nice browned color. Remove from the oven an let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Want to get fancy? You can add a little extra cream and then put the potatoes in a pastry bag. Swirl any type of design over the meat. Cook in the oven as before but finish off under the broiler to char the peaks.
What to go simple? This dish can be made with practically any leftovers you have in the fridge. Heat them up in a pot with a sauce you thicken. Spread with leftover potatoes smashed and spread on top for the “mixture.” Bake it and name it. It’s yours.