Shepherd’s (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieShepherd’s pie dates back to the late 1700′s when potatoes were coming into common usage as a crop.  It was a cottage pie back then.  The term shepherd’s pie came about in the 1870′s.  The terms cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are used somewhat interchangeably but I think that’s a bit of a mistake.  Cottage pie is generally a meat pie, while shepherd’s pie includes mutton or lamb.  That may be splitting hairs but I suppose it’s worth noting.

I like shepherd’s pie.  It’s one of the few times I use lamb.  It also reminds me of “The Tao Of Pooh” and the companion book “The Te of Piglet” by Benjamin Hoff.  Why?  There’s a brief passage about Cottleston Pie which Winnie the Pooh sings or repeats.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
Why does a chicken? I don’t know why.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

It doesn’t mean really much of anything but it makes me smile.  There is a Winnie the Pooh Cookbook and I’ve been trying to get ahold of it for some time.  There’s actually a recipe for Cottleston Pie, which I suppose means another meal and another post.  Enough of that then.

So a cottage or shepherd’s pie is a really simple recipe (for the most part) that comprises a thick layer of beef or meat, a layer of corn, and a layer of mashed potatoes which is then baked.

So let’s say we’re making a smaller sized casserole dish of Shepherd’s pie.  You’ll have to ignore the gigantic and epically proportioned one that we’re making.  We’re just hungry people.

The first step is basically making mashed potatoes.  Simple enough.  Diversity in potatoes is a good idea here.  We generally use 2 russets and 4 Yukons.  They get cut up into larger chunks and get boiled in a large pot for about 20 minutes.  The best guide is boil them until they get soft.  Once they’re done you can remove them and mash them or put them through a food mill.  I like the food mill, but then again I like a bit of skin in my mashed potatoes, so a mill is out if you’re going that direction.  Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

At this point you’ll want to get the oven heated so go ahead and preheat to 325 degrees F.Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

Once mashed up a bit I add a 1 and 1//2 cups warm milk and 4 tablespoons of butter to my mix.  Mashed potatoes usually need a bit of help, milk and butter almost always get the job done.  I also generally add about 1/2 cup of cheddar, Romano, or Reggiano Parmesan to my potatoes.  Just dump that in and keep mixing.  I keep this in a bowl set aside while I’m getting everything else put together.

The meat portion of the pie is the next thing I tackle.  This starts with onions, oddly enough.  Sweat 1/2 cup of chopped onion in a pan with a bit of butter.  This doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time, just until the onions start to look translucent.  At this point you can add in the meat.  For the size serving this adaptation calls for you’ll probably want about 1/2 a pound each of both ground lamb and ground beef (lean ground beef – I used 97% lean.)Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieShepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieSaute the onion and meat mixture until almost no pink remains.  I put the flour, herbs, and spices in a bowl and mix that before hand.  When the meat hits this magic point you can just dump the whole bowl in and stir.  You want the flour to cook a little bit before you go any further so give it two or three minutes before moving on to the next step.  Done?  Good.  The same way I premix all the herbs and spices I mix up the Worcestershire, hot sauce, tomato paste, and stock in a large measuring cup/bowl and then dump the whole mix in.  Now would be a great time to do that and add it to the meat.  Cook that down until a thick sauce remains.

Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieAmazingly you’re nearly done aside from assembly.  You’ll need to make a decision on what sort of casserole dish to use.  We used a giant Pyrex but scaled down for this recipe that might be an 8×8 or 9×9 square.  Whatever you choose, the bottom layer is going to be the meat.  So empty out your frying pan and layer the bottom of the baking dish thusly.Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

When you’ve emptied your pan you’re ready to cook the corn pretty quickly.  You don’t want to clean the pan.  Leave all the meaty goodness behind.  That’s going to make for some good corn.  Add a large package of frozen corn to the pan and saute’ until most of the moisture has evaporated.  Conveniently the corn is the next layer of the casserole.  So when done – just layer that on top of the meat.  As you might imagine the only thing left is the mashed potatoes.  They get layered on top of the corn.  I smooth those out over the top, and layer a bit of cheese atop the whole mess, maybe another 1/2 cup of whatever you choose to be using.Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieShepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) PieInto the oven with Ye!  Figure 40 – 50 minutes in a 325 degree F oven.  You’ll bake it until the top turns a golden brown, or at least starts to.  Remove it from the oven and then let it sit for about another 20 minutes.  A difficult task when you’re smelling it on the counter I assure you.Shepherd's (And Perhaps Cottage) Pie

For one decent sized Pyrex baking dish – maybe 8×8 or 9×9 depending on the variables (depth and whatnot) you’ll need:

  • 1/2 Pound of Ground Beef (Lean to Extra Lean)
  • 1/2 Pound Ground Lamb (I call it Mutton…Get thee hence with my Mutton!!)
  • 2 Large Russet Potatoes
  • 4 Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1/2 Stick Butter (4 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 8 Dashes of Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
  • 1 Cup of Beef or Lamb Stock
  • 3 Tablespoons of Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (or combine Basil, Oregano, and Marjoram)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 of a Yellow Onion – Finely Chopped
  • 1 C Sharp Cheddar, Romano, or Parmesan – Shredded
  • 18 ounce Package of Frozen Corn
  • Love

Bake for 40-50 minutes at 325 F or until top is golden brown.  Let rest 20 minutes and enjoy!


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