Classic Shepard’s pie with not-so-classic suggestions
By David Douglas, Contributor
Shepard’s pie is an essential hearty dish that warms the belly and fills the pot. It’s a versatile dish that can be made in many ways and is great food for all occasions. It’s also the perfect dish to use up leftovers with too!
4 or 5 russet
1/4 cup table cream
2 tbs butter or margarine
1 lb ground meat (beef is most common)
1/2 cup onions (diced)
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
4 cups corn kernels
2 cups cheddar cheese (grated)
salt and pepper to taste
These ingredient volumes can be modified to suit your needs. I sometimes struggle with knowing how much of each layer to make. Usually, I will add things to the ground beef such as mushrooms, red peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes to ensure that there is decent volume to the meat layer.
Having more than enough corn for the second layer, available in frozen or canned format, is a good plan. Also, always make more mashed potatoes then you think you’ll need; I usually still end up with just enough when I add an extra potato to what I thought was sufficient.
Peel and dice your potatoes before putting them in a large pot to boil with a sprinkle of salt to increase boiling temperature—and some cooking oil to prevent bubbling over.
While your potatoes soften, heat a large skillet and brown the ground beef. When nearly browned, drain any excess fat then add diced onions (and optional ingredients to make your desired ground beef mixture). Once the mixture is to your desired darkness (I like to overcook mine a little to give it a crunch), add the cream of mushroom soup, salt, pepper, as well as any additional flavours you may want. Mix well.
Some good suggestions for “additional flavours” would be Maggi sauce (for a sweet and salty twist), BBQ sauce (for a smoky flavour), or some chili paste (for a spicy kick). Remove from heat and set aside.
By now, your potatoes are likely ready to be mashed. Check by poking a cube of potato with a fork. If it falls off or feels really soft, they are probably ready; if it stays on the fork or you have to use force, let them boil longer.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drain the water from the potatoes and mash them with the cream, butter, salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy. If you wanted to add a little flavour boost to your potatoes, consider using sour cream instead of table cream.
In your casserole dish, start with your ground beef mixture. You want to have a pressed layer approximately one-third of the dish thick. Next, put down a layer of corn kernels. This layer can be thinner if you have lots of mashed potatoes to add or your beef layer is a little thick but try to be consistent in your layering. On top, begin to spread the potatoes until they are just under the lip of the casserole dish. This can be a little tricky as the potatoes will try to pick up the corn layer if you’re not careful—take your time.
Sprinkle the top with cheese and the dish is ready to go in the oven (you can also make the top more decorative with red pepper slices or banana pepper rings). Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes before turning the oven to broil for another 5 to 10 minutes—or until the cheese begins to form a crust. Remove from the oven and allow time to cool before serving.