Lamb is a common and traditional protein used in Shepherd’s Pie, but the idea of taking a protein, adding veggies, nestling it in a crust and topping with mashed potatoes lends itself to variation. Here, Ken Haedrich brings us a version using ground beef, tiny dice of veggies and a rich sour cream potato topping. It is, indeed, a Dinner Pie from his book of the same name. Also check out his recipe for Turkey Crumb Pot Pie.
Recipe © 2015 by Ken Haedrich from Dinner Piesand used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.
Some day, when you’re good and bored, go online and Google this: Should shepherd’s pie have a pastry or not? You’ll be shocked at how many unpleasantries this question provokes. (At least, I was.) You’ll find threads of conversations, some going back years, with one party or another tossing the gravest of insults back and forth, cursing not just the offender but also the offender’s ancestors and any future progeny. It’s like shepherd’s pie road rage, just without the road. I cringe to think what might come my way when someone discovers that I often put a pastry under my shepherd’s pie. I’ll let the chips fall where they may because this version—with a flaky bottom crust, a meaty filling, and a crown of sour creamed mashed potatoes—tastes positively glorious. It’s best to make this recipe in individual dishes to maintain the integrity of the construction. And in the end, if you want to dispense with the pastry, this is wonderful even without.
- 1 recipe Go-To Pie Dough, divided as instructed in step 1 and refrigerated
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut in small dice
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 1½ pounds ground chuck
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1½ cups beef broth
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with their juice
- 1 cup frozen peas or baby lima beans (no need to thaw)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 cups peeled and coarsely chopped russet potatoes
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ⅓ to ½ cup warm whole milk
- Prepare the pastry, dividing it into four equal pieces rather than one disk. Flatten each piece into a ½-inch-thick disk, then wrap the disks individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1½ hours.
- Get out four individual pie pans, each with a capacity of 1 to 1¼ cups. Working with one piece of dough at a time (and leaving the others in the refrigerator), roll the dough into a circle 7½ to 8 inches in diameter. Line one of the pans with the pastry; shape and flute the edge. Refrigerate. Repeat for the other pie pans, refrigerating those as well.
- Heat the oil in a large stovetop casserole over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery; salt lightly. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground chuck and garlic. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When the meat is browned, remove the pan from the heat. Tilt the pan and spoon off and discard about two-thirds of the fat.
- Put the pan back on the heat and stir in the flour and paprika. Cook for 1 minute, then add the beef broth, tomatoes and their juice, and the peas. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, rosemary, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Simmer the filling gently until thick and saucy, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste, adding more seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature (see Recipe for Success).
- Plan to start making the mashed potato topping shortly before the pies will go in the oven. You’ll start baking the pies without the potatoes and then add them about halfway through the baking. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan with enough lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. (Reserve the potato water for soup, if you like.) Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter, the sour cream, and about ¼ cup of the warm milk. Mash with a hand masher, adding salt and pepper to taste. Use more milk as needed to make the potatoes fluffy-moist but not too soft or loose. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to keep the potatoes warm. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put a large, heavy baking sheet on the center oven rack to preheat along with the oven.
- Spoon enough filling into each pie shell to come within ½ inch of the top of the shell. (Don’t be surprised if you have extra filling—see Recipe for Success.) Place the pie pans on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Slide out the baking sheet and put it on a heatproof surface. Mound lots of mashed potatoes on top of the filling, smoothing it with the back of a spoon. Brush the surface of the potatoes with the last 2 tablespoons melted butter.
- Bake the pies for 20 minutes more. Transfer the pies to a cooling rack and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Ken’s Recipe for Success
- It’s important to cool the meat filling before it goes into the shells. If you put hot filling into the shells, much of the moisture in the sauce is going to evaporate before the pastry has time to bake, leaving you with dry filling. If there’s time, I actually prefer to cool and then refrigerate the meat, so both it and the pastry are cold when the pies start baking.
- If you do have leftover filling and mashed potatoes, just make up crustless versions of the pies and refrigerate or freeze them for later.
- I’ll sometimes cover the mashed potatoes with cheese right after coating them with butter. My favorites are grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar.