I love comfort food but I do not love the amount of time most of the popular comfort dishes take to prepare. Unless it’s a cold, dreary day on the weekend when I have time to go through each step, I usually want to get something on the table in as little time as possible. Shepherd’s Pie is one of those meals. It traditionally takes close to or over an hour to prepare and includes several steps. This recipe provides the comfort of Shepherd’s Pie with the efficiency of a weeknight dinner.
Shepherd’s Pie has two parts: the potatoes and the meat filling. Normally the potatoes go on top and the dish bakes for at least 30 minutes. To save time, I flipped the dish. Instead of baking the pie, the mashed potatoes serve as a bed for the hearty filling. It’s a quicker way to get the rich, comforting dinner on the table and you don’t have to use a large baking dish either! It’s much more practical for busy nights and the two parts are easy to pull together.
Mashed potatoes practically make themselves. Cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes pending how many potatoes you’re using. I find that four to six medium sized potatoes are enough for a family of four. You want to cut the potatoes about as equal as you can so they cook even. Once the potatoes are done, drain the water and set aside as you finish the filling. You can get the meat mixture going while the potatoes boil.
For the meat part, all you’re doing is cooking the ingredients through. Start with the lamb in a bit of oil. Season with salt and pepper and brown. Once browned, add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic. The vegetables should be chopped into the size you’d get from a frozen bag of mixed vegetables. The larger the vegetables, the longer they take to cook. Once the vegetables have begun to soften the liquid goes in. This is great with only chicken stock but a nice amber ale adds extra richness and depth to the dish. Similar to the Beer-Braised Beef recipe, I used Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer. I love the flavor (I have zero affiliation to the brand) and that’s something that comes rare for me with beer. Once the liquid is in, add the remaining ingredients and let it simmer for a few minutes to let all the flavors come together. While the meat mixture simmers, prepare the mashed potatoes and you’ll be ready to serve up a delicious dinner in no time.
Upside Down Shepherd’s Pie
1 tbsp. Grapeseed Oil
1 lb. Ground Lamb (or beef)
1 large Carrot or 2 medium Carrots, chopped
1 Celery Stalk, chopped
1 small Onion, diced
1 clove Garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. Tomato Paste
½ cup Chicken Stock
½ cup Amber Ale
1 sprig Thyme and Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
½ cup Frozen Peas
Salt & Pepper
4 large Potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cup Buttermilk
4 tbsp. Butter
1 - Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 15-20 minutes until easily pierced. Drain and set aside to finish later.
2 - Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the ground lamb and season with salt and pepper. Break it up into small bits as you cook, about 6-8 minutes. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic to the meat and cook until they begin to soften, about 5-6 minutes.
3 - Add the tomato paste and cook a minute or so. It releases any bitter flavor and brings out the natural sweetness. Add the ale and deglaze the pan, scraping for a few minutes until cooked down. Add the Worcestershire, stock, herbs and flour, stirring to thicken. Bring to a simmer and let cook 10-15 minutes until nice and thick.
4 - Mash the potatoes with the buttermilk and butter until creamy. Spoon the potatoes into four bowls and top with the meat mixture. Serve.