Monday, February 27, 2012

Mary Poppins and Shepherd's Pie - Yes, They Go Together!

The Beginnings of Shepherd's Pie by annbumbly
Well, at least the beginnings of Shepherd's Pie

When our children were growing up, our lovely Sheila lived with us and was their ~Mary Poppins~; and in the years since, tho no longer living with us, she has most definitely become family. She brought many wonderful things to our family, and one of the very best was her English cooking. No groans allowed, as we all quickly figured out that most English cooking, aside from waaaay over-cooked veggies, is really really delicious! Miss She introduced us to Scotch eggs, rice pudding, corned beef hash (whoa thunk that would be delicious!?!) and, drum roll please, Shepherd's Pie, to name a few. 
Much as I love it, I hadn't made Shepherd's Pie for years. Until recently. I had a taste for it about a month or two ago and decided it was time to recreate Sheila's masterpiece. It was wonderful and most amazingly, the hubs loved it too.  We've enjoyed it pretty regularly since then, to the point that when I made one for dinner for the Murray family who were returning from a ski trip, George (the hubs) said I couldn't take them one unless there was one for us as well. Happy to oblige!

The T'nG:

1 1/2 or so lbs. ground beef
3 - 5 carrots, quartered length-wise then sliced 1/4" thick
1 medium onion chopped to size of the carrots
1 - 2 Tablespoons butter 
1 - 2 cups water
frozen corn, amount to your taste
frozen peas, amount to your taste
1 1/2 C. gravy (homemade or if you don't have that, a Better 'n Gravy or McCormick packet)
Worcestershire sauce to taste
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
any other seasonings you might like

mashed potatoes
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350º. 
In an iron skillet (preferably) brown ground beef and then drain into a bowl so you can separate fat from any liquids. Set aside. Melt butter in same skillet and sauté the carrots and onions over medium high heat for 5 or so minutes. Pour the water over the carrots and onions just to cover and boil off the water. This tenderizes the carrots. Add beef, and any liquid left from draining it, back to the skillet and mix all together. Pour on the gravy to moisten it all - but don't add too much as you don't want it soupy. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and paper and any other herbs you might like. Stir together well and taste to be sure seasonings are to your liking. Just before topping with the mashed potatoes, pour in desired amounts of corn and peas. I generally add about a cup of each. 
If you're not using the the skillet you've just made everything in, pour mixture into a casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes (recipe below), then sprinkle with the cheddar cheese and lightly with paprika. Bake until bubbly and hot through and through, about 30 - 45 minutes. 
This can be made ahead. Just be sure to bring it to room temp. before baking. 

Mashed Potatoes

Alrighty then...a bit of honesty is required here. Because of good advice I've gotten from cousin Julie, the last two times I've made Shepherd's Pie, I've cheated and bought already made mashed potatoes. Simply Potatoes and Country Crock are two brands. I heat them in the microwave according to package directions, then whip them with a little extra melted butter, salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Heck of a lot easier than making from scratch, and in this instance, no one can tell the difference! However, for those of you (hello Mom!) who are pure of heart, here's the from scratch way: 

3 - 5 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, halved and cut in thirds
1 C. or so hot milk
1 stick butter, melted in milk
salt, fresh ground pepper and nutmeg to taste

Put potatoes in a pot with water just to cover. Boil until potatoes are done. Drain potatoes and put through a ricer (my preferred way). Mix in milk, butter and seasonings to taste. 



'till we feast again! 

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