Shepherd’s Pie, a dish of hearty stew topped and baked with a potato crust, is the epitome of a fall dish. It’s deep, savory flavor is delicious on a crisp autumn day and its meat and potato elements are reminiscent of the family favorites I grew up on.
Technically, the dish I’ve made in this post is “Cottage Pie” because I’ve made it with ground beef, whereas a traditional Shepherd’s Pie is made with minced lamb. Regardless of whatever name you give it or meat your use, it’s doubtful that anyone should withdraw their appetite from such a homey meal.
To be completely honest, while I love mashed potatoes, I loathe making them. All that work for such a seemingly plain and simple side makes them a little too fussy for me. My take, which I’ve adapted from Mary Berry, is a version that doesn’t use mashed potatoes, but scalloped au gratin potatoes instead. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of this potato topping.
Shepherd's Pie with Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin
After the potatoes have cooked, they can be a bit tricky to separate. It works a lot easier if you slide them apart rather than trying to pull them from one another.
Make sure when you're baking this dish that it's on a rimmed baking sheet. Depending on how full you fill your baking dish, it can get messy.
1 Tbsp oil
2 lbs. ground beef or lamb
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
1 tsp salt
1 liberal cup of red wine
1/3 cup flour
1 cup beef stock
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 cup cream
2 cups cheddar cheese
To make the filling: Set a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. Once skillet has come to temperature, add ground meat and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove meat and set aside. Add onions and carrots, 1 tsp salt, and sauté until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes.
While onions and carrots are cooking, in a small mixing bowl whisk together the flour and wine into a smooth paste. Add beef stock and whisk until combined.
Add meat to the pan with the onion and carrot mixture. Add the wine mixture along with the Worcestershire, sugar, thyme, Bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
To make the scalloped potato topping: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sliced potatoes and boil for 4-5 minutes, or until soft but not mushy. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the potatoes from continuing to cook. Allow to sit, drain, and cool down.
To assemble: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the meat filling into a 2 quart baking dish. Arrange a layer of the sliced potatoes over the filling, being sure that each piece of potato slightly overlaps the potato before it. Once your completed your first layer, pour half of the heavy cream over it and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of sliced potatoes and the rest of the heavy cream. After you've added the cream to your second layer, arrange the cheese on top.
Put baking dish on top of a rimmed baking sheet and place in the middle rack of the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.