Thursdays in the kitchen with Jo: Shepherd’s Pie for St. Patrick’s Day

I’m proud to be Irish but I’ve never really embraced the cuisine like I do Italy’s or Mexico’s.  There are specific items in Ireland’s culinary cupboard that I love – potatoes, for one – but not a lot of dishes that I regularly put together.  Despite a growing number of well-known Irish chefs – Rachel Allen among them – few of us ever say “Let’s go out for Irish tonight.”  On St. Patrick’s Day, however, it’s worth giving the Emerald Isle her due when it comes to answering the question, “What’s for dinner?”

Last year, I offered you a basic Guinness Stew.  This year, it’s Shepherd’s Pie.  Sure, there are similarities between the two – beef, carrots, potatoes, beer – but enough differences to make me feel okay about myself.  (That’s what this blog is all about: Jo feeling good about Jo.)

This dish can be made with either lamb or ground beef, but I don’t really like lamb.  Also, I’m going to include carrots for the recipe I give you here, though I’ve actually made my shepherd’s pie without because the husband just cannot abide cooked carrots.  What’s your weird little tick when it comes to foods you can’t stomach?  (Mine’s watermelon.  Like the taste, hate the texture.)

I’m serving this with broccoli because we need a good, green vegetable on the plate.  Of course, there’s also a loaf of Irish soda bread I’ve sliced.  Can’t do St. Patrick’s Day without it.

Shepherd’s Pie (serves eight)

Meat filling:

1 T. olive oil (or bacon fat if you have it on hand)

1 cup chopped onions

1 lb. ground beef (lean is fine, or even ground turkey)

1 cup carrots, cut into bite size pieces

1 cup frozen peas

1 T. minced garlic

2 t. chopped fresh thyme

2 T. tomato paste

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

½ bottle dark or amber beer

½ cup beef broth

1 T. flour

salt and pepper

For mashed potatoes:

5-6 large Russet potatoes

½ stick butter

milk

salt and pepper

1 cup grated Irish cheddar

salt and pepper

Carmelize the onions in the oil over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the beef and brown, then drain the fat.  Add carrots, peas, garlic, thyme, tomato paste, and Worcestershire.  Stir to mix and let simmer for about five minutes.  Add the beer and broth, bring to a boil, then sprinkle in the flour to thicken the sauce.  Reduce heat to medium and let cook for five minutes.

Make the mashed potatoes.  (I don’t have to tell you how, do I?)  I saved myself one step and simply mixed in the Irish cheddar instead of browning it on top later.

In a large deep-dish pie pan or simple oven-proof casserole dish, spoon the meat mixture over the bottom at least one inch thick, then spoon the mashed potatoes over and spread evenly.  Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until the edges are brown.  (The dish I made mine in was too shallow – see photo above – but that didn’t affect the taste, just the presentation.)

Don’t forget the soda bread.

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