I was in an Irish Pub a few days ago enjoying a Guinness when an earthen flat bowl came out of the kitchen and was set down at the bar in front of the gentleman next to me. The site of it brought back lots of memories of my childhood. Shepard’s Pie was a staple in the school cafeteria and unlike most school meals today, it was made fresh. My mother – who spend many years overseeing developmental nutrition programs – also made a wonderful Shepard’s Pie. The basic ingredient list is very simple; ground beef, whole kernel corn, and potatoes. My version is very true to its country roots and only varies in how I get the right savory flavors.
- 3 lb ground beef
- 4 lb whole kernel corn (frozen is fine)
- 5 lb white potatoes
- 1tbs salt
- 1tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tbs liquid smoke
- 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
This recipe will make about 16 good sized servings. You can make a lot of individual (or two person dishes) or one or two large casserole dishes.
Toss the ground beef, liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce in a large pan or non-stick pot. Heat slowly so you can keep the beef from cooking into large chunks. You want the ground beef to stay as fine and crumbly as possible. When the meat is fully cooked, pour off the juice and fat for later. Distribute the cooked meat into baking dishes; creating a 1 inch layer at the bottom of each dish.
Either wash the potatoes well or peel them. I don’t peel my potatoes but that is personal preference. Cut the potatoes into chunks approximately 2 inches in size. Place in a large pot and almost but not quite cover with water. I use the same pot from cooking the meat. Take all the juice set aside from the cooked meat (but not the fat) and add it to the potatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat back to maintain a gentle boil for 20-30 minutes. When ready, the potatoes should be soft to the advancement of a fork. Drain the potatoes. Careful they are hot !
Mash the potatoes. If you have a child in the house, here is a chance to get them involved. Let the potatoes cool enough so you can hold one in your hand and it is warm but not uncomfortable. Now have your child wash their hands well. Have them put their hands in the potato pot and start to squeeze – the goal is to mash all the potatoes by hand. When the potatoes are close to mashed, add the salt and pepper. If you would normally add 1 tablespoon or more of butter to your mash potatoes, take the same amount of the beef fast reserved from cooking the ground meat. Continue to use the hand mixing and mashing technique to incorporate the butter or fat and salt/pepper.
Add about a 1 inch layer of whole kernel corn over the meat in each backing dish. Add about a 1 inch later of mashed potatoes over the corn.
At this point, you can freeze the Shepard’s Pie for later. When you want to serve, thaw one of the baking dishes and then bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. You want to warm the dish thoroughly and lightly brown a small bit of the potato.
If you like, you can add some grated cheese to the top prior to baking.
There are definitely more complex recipes for Shepard’s pie. If I am making this for freezing to have at the end of a long day or after coming in from shoveling snow, the “meat, corn, potatoes” with salt and pepper is fine. With a root cellar and a freezer, the ingredients are easy to keep on hand all winter. Or, it you tend to go on cooking sprees, make up a batch and freeze in small one or two person portions. If you don’t mind the top not being toasted, you can even microwave a serving.
Sorry, no picture as I ate the evidence !