What I love most about Shepherd’s Pie is that it was a peasant dish. The origins are likely Scottish, circa the early 1700's. There’s something raw and beautiful about human beings preparing a belly-warming meal from the mundane – the sort of everyday ingredients that might otherwise be overlooked, certainly not celebrated.
My son, EJ, was looking for just such a recipe to try recently. When I asked what he wanted to make for dinner, he promptly answered, "Something really good!" So, of course, I asked him to be a bit more specific. After some thought he answered, “Shepherd’s Pie.” The only problem was we had never made it, heck I’d only eaten it a few times. But what’s better than a cooking challenge? We decided to totally wing it and come up with a recipe inspired by the flavors we think of when enjoying the dish. The result was pretty remarkable --- and it was so much fun hanging out with my favorite cook. Not to mention I got to play sous chef, which was a blast! …Until the end when I remembered sous chefs do the dishes at our house. #Bummer
Perhaps our collaboration wasn’t as game-changing as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Eric B. and Rakim, peanut butter and jelly, or Kirk and Spock, but I’d say we make quite a pair.
Our take on Shepherd’s Pie isn’t a huge departure from the original. Why mess with perfection? Our changes include the addition of ground beef incorporated into the lamb. I know what you’re thinking: “Shepherds don’t herd cattle.” True, but we thought the cost savings were worth it. The result is less gamey and cuts down on the fat a bit. Elijah made the call to add cumin and paprika, which I thought added beautiful depth and an earthiness to the dish.
Finally, we upped the ante by topping it with garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes. Garlic makes everything better and sour cream is an unexpected but pleasant counterpoint to the rich meat filling.
I hope you love this dish as much as my family. EJ and I would be tickled if you share this and other posts on social media with the hashtag #vermilionlane
Check out EJ on YouTube making Shepherd’s Pie -- in his words, "like a boss!"
EJ's Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Meat Filling Ingredients:
1 lb. lamb 1 lb. ground beef or 3 large carrots, chopped 3 stalks celery, chopped 1 large onion, diced 1 ½ cups warm stock (beef or chicken) 1 cup frozen peas (optional) 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped 3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 teaspoon grated garlic ½ teaspoon ground paprika ½ teaspoon ground cumin 2 tablespoons flour 4 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce Salt and pepper to taste Olive oil
Mashed Potatoes Ingredients:
4 russet potatoes 1 cup half and half 2-4 tablespoons butter, softened 1 teaspoon minced garlic salt and pepper to taste
Stir in salt and pepper to taste Serve with any remaining butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Clean, peel, and cut potatoes into uniform pieces. Place in a pot and cover with water. Salt the water add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook about 15 minutes, until fork tender.
Make the pie filling: Heat skillet to medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook until tender about 10-15 minutes. Stirring frequently. Remove from skillet.
Add lamb and ground beef. Brown meat while stirring frequently until cooked through.
Drain fat and water. Then return to skillet.
Add tomato paste, paprika, thyme, parsley, cumin, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and cook over medium low heat about 5 minutes.
In a separate small pan make a roux (whisk together a few minutes on medium low heat, do not allow to burn) with 4 tablespoons butter and two tablespoons flour.
Stir warm stock into meat mixture. Mix well, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Add roux to meat mixture and stir until well incorporated. Remove from heat.
Place in the bottom of an oven-safe casserole dish.
When the potatoes are fork tender, drain well and return to the pot.
Mash potatoes with two tablespoons softened butter and room temperature sour cream.
Add warm half and half, ¼ cup at a time until soft and velvety.
Carefully top meat mixture with mashed potatoes. Dot with several cubes of butter.
Bake until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy, about 15-20 minutes. If needed, broil for 5 minutes for an extra golden potato top.