What most of us think of as shepherd’s pie is technically cottage pie – shepherd’s pie being a dish made with lamb. The terms ‘cottage pie’ and ‘shepherd’s pie’ were first documented in the 1790s when potatoes took hold as an inexpensive edible crop for those who dwelled in humble homes, or cottages. Most shepherd’s pie is now made with ground beef. There are many variations of shepherd’s pie throughout the world, such as Great Britain’s fish pie, the vegetarian version known as shepherdess’s pie, Brazil’s bolo de batata and the enigmatically named pâté Chinois (literally “Chinese Pie”) from Quebec.
There are as many versions of shepherd’s pie as there are families who eat it. Your family’s favorite leftover or frozen vegetables can be added to the beef mixture, and the cheddar cheese could be swapped out for grated parmesan or other flavorful variety – or omitted all together.
4 Russet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
½ Cup milk
½ Cup grated cheddar cheese
(Or: 4 servings leftover mashed potatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 lb. ground beef
2 medium carrots, chopped into ½ dice
2 tablespoon flour
Salt & pepper
1 Cup beef broth (chicken broth or water can be substituted)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Boil potatoes in salted water until fork-tender, drain and mash with butter and milk. Add grated cheese, reserving some to sprinkle on top.
In a cast-iron skillet, sauté onion in olive oil or butter until softened. Add beef and carrot and cook, stirring to break up meat, until beef is browned. Add flour to the pan, season with salt and pepper, cook several minutes while stirring, and then add broth or water and Worcestershire sauce.
Spoon mashed potatoes onto beef mixture, spreading to cover, and top with reserved cheese.
Bake the shepherd’s pie in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or more (once browned, this dish holds well in a low temperature oven.) If your skillet is very full, place it on a cookie sheet to protect your oven from overflow. Alternatively, this dish can be layered into a casserole pan.