"May your glass be ever full, may you always have a strong roof over your head, and may you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead."
When the mood is warm and the company good, it's hard to beat a toast that comes from the heart, or the friends that forgive us the liberties taken with a loosely remembered blessing.
The beauty of a toasty shepherd's pie, cooked up while winter hasn't quite let go yet, is that the dish is similarly forgiving.
Die-hards might tell you that ground lamb is key — otherwise it's called "cottage pie" — but in the same spirit of your cheerful friends, we'll wink and let you call this shepherd's pie if ground beef is easier to find.
As a hearty, cheap and filling dish, the classic is, at its core, just meat and vegetables in gravy, covered with mashed potatoes. Add or substitute as many vegetables as you'd like. Don't like mushrooms? Swap them for some frozen peas. Use beef stock instead of chicken stock if you've got that on hand. Add red wine, paprika or other seasonings you like to get the gravy just right. The point is there doesn't necessarily need to be a hard-and-fast list you stick to. Instead, take this recipe as a base, use what you have lying around, and add a personal twist to make it yours.
- 3 large Yukon gold potatoes
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock
- 1 cup Dubliner cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 pound ground lamb or lean ground beef
- 1-1/2 cups diced mushrooms
- 1 pinch dried rosemary
- 2 large splashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and dice potatoes and add to boiling water. Smash garlic cloves with flat side of a knife, remove peels, and add to potatoes. Cook until soft (about 12 to 15 minutes), strain off water, return to pot and mash with wooden spoon or masher. Add butter, sour cream and 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock, stir until creamy, then add Dubliner cheese and stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat.
- While the potatoes are boiling, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add diced onions and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking. Add the lamb or lean ground beef and brown, stirring frequently.
- Once all meat is browned, add the diced mushrooms, rosemary, salt and pepper. Quickly drizzle Worcestershire sauce around the pan in two large circles (about 1 tablespoon if you want to measure). Add remaining 1/2 cup stock, sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir until sauce starts to thicken, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spoon the meat and veggie mixture into a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish or individual oven-safe ramekins and spread to cover the bottom. Carefully spoon the mashed potatoes on top to cover the meat mixture completely. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until potatoes start to get a golden crust. Optional: add some grated Dubliner on top of the potatoes before baking to get an even cheesier dish. Serve warm. ♦