One of my favorite meals, Shepherd’s Pie, is actually a simple casserole traditionally made from leftovers. Fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes top this classic Irish casserole of ground beef and vegetables simmered in a rich brown gravy.
I read about a new technique for cooking mashed potatoes in Cook’s Illustrated and it’s amazing. This is the magazine version of the popular TV series Americas Test Kitchen and very informative and chock full of tidbits and “how to’s” and why this and not that explanations.
I have never seen the TV show but I am a huge fan of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks and Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I love reading the details about the ingredients and cooking methods and the science behind various methods and formulas used to perfect their recipes.
Smooth Sensational Spuds
I will never make mashed potatoes any other way again. Not only was the new boiling technique a super idea but I added one ingredient that seems to make a world of difference in the consistency of the mashed potatoes.
The addition of 1 egg yolk made this recipe a smashing hit.
Seems like this technique should have been discovered long before now but we do what works rather than experiment when you need to get dinner on the table in a jiffy. And who knows maybe there are lots of folks that cook them this way and I’m the only one out there still using the “old school” method.
Let me know if you are one of those cooks that has already been using this technique.
The new technique for the fastest and fluffiest mashed potatoes is brought to you right here at Soybasil.com and conveniently, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!
New cooking method to make smooth buttery mashed potatoes:
- Bring a medium size pot of water to boil (about 3 cups)
- slice your potatoes into 1/4″ disks
- add sliced potatoes to already boiling water
- takes about 10 minutes to cook through
- return to pot to mash potatoes and the rest of the ingredients
Its genius! Bring your water to boil while you are peeling and slicing your potatoes. I like russets for mashed potatoes but you can use most other varieties. Slice the potatoes into disks of even thickness then add to the boiling water. The disk shape allows for quicker cooking and keeps too much starch from sloughing off and making a glue-like mash.
I know you are going to love these light and fluffy mashed potatoes as much as I do and don’t forget to whisk in the egg yolk. It works as an emulsifier and smooths everything out and creates a velvety texture.
Shamrocks, Sheep and St. Patrick
I have been thinking a lot about St. Patrick’s Day and wondering why we celebrate him. I decided to do a little research into the origin of this national holiday because most of my descendants come from Ireland and I don’t recall learning anything about the reason behind this holiday.
Maybe I did know once.
We are supposed to wear green is all I know now.
I feel sure that the Catholic school alumni reading this post must know the details but for those that went to public school and haven’t “googled” it yet, here is the scoop.
St. Patrick was a bishop and is the Primary Patron Saint of Ireland. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and March 17th is the day of his death and that is why we celebrate him on this day. Legend also credits St. Patrick for using the 3 leaves of the Irish clover, the shamrock, to explain the christian concept of the Holy Trinity. And he banished all snakes from the island. No wonder he was sainted!
Bet you had no idea you were going to be learning about religious concepts and Catholic Saints when you opened today’s Shepherd’s Pie post, did you?
In doing a little more research for this post I discovered something else that is relevant here. My recipe for Shepherd’s Pie may not really be Shepherd’s Pie!
Casserole Questions and Answers
It is true that there is not one traditional recipe to make a shepherd’s pie given that it was made by Irish homemakers to rid the fridge of leftovers. They simply used the ingredients they had so as not to waste the food remaining from Sunday dinner. My version is just one way to prepare the classic brown gravy mixture topped with mashed spuds. But is it really Shepherd’s Pie?
No, not according to my internet research.
I learned that in Ireland cows were considered sacred and a symbol of wealth; therefore, not typically eaten by Irish people. Historically the people of Ireland were not wealthy and, in fact, most were peasants and could not afford to eat beef.
The peasants lived off the land and due to the large numbers of sheep on the island many were shepherds. The most common meat eaten by Irish peasants for centuries was lamb or mutton and this is how the pie most likely got its name.
On the other hand, beef was consumed in large quantities in England. There is a similar pie made in England which uses ground or minced beef as the main ingredient. It is known as Cottage Pie.
Both are hearty casseroles made up of mixed vegetables simmered with meat in gravy and topped with mashed potatoes. However, when this pie is made with lamb or mutton as it traditionally was in Ireland it should be referred to as Shepherd’s Pie.
I have made both versions of Pie with a variety of meats and can say without hesitation that the leftover lamb roast made an absolutely delicious and memorable Shepherd’s Pie. On the more frugal side, ground beef mixed with more flavorful ground pork makes for quite a tasty Cottage Pie. It must be my Irish heritage that makes me so proficient at cleaning out the fridge.
Even though this recipe may not really be a true Shepherd’s Pie, I urge you to give it a chance and celebrate the Irish and their contributions to the American culture. Invite a few folks over when you do because food tastes better when you share it with family and friends.
Please leave me a message in the comment section below and tell me how yours turns out.
Items you may need for this recipe:
- March 12, 2023
- Print this
- 1 1/2lbs ground beef
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 c mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T tomato paste
- 1 1/2 c beef broth
- 2 T flour
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 lbs russet potatoes
- 4 T butter
- 1/2 milk
- 1 egg yolk
- salt and pepper
- Optional: 2 T parsley, chopped
- Step 1
- Bring a medium pot of about 3 cups of water to boil. Peel potatoes then slice in 1/4 inch thickness place carefully into boiling water, bring back to boil then turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes or until easily pierced with fork
- Step 2
- Drain water and return potatoes to pot to evaporate excess water then mash with potato masher. Add butter and continue to mash
- Step 3
- In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and milk then pour into potatoes and incorporate completely until potatoes are smooth and set aside
- Step 4
- In a large pan brown ground beef with onion until no pink remains about 5 minutes
- Step 5
- In separate medium sauce pan heat oil and saute carrot and mushrooms til soft about 2 minutes
- Step 6
- Add tomato past and garlic and cook til fragrant about 30 seconds then add flour and mix to coat the vegetables
- Step 7
- Add beef broth and bayleaf and cook another 3-4 minutes to thicken the gravy: Add the beef and onion to this mixture bring to simmer for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste
- Step 8
- Remove the bay leaf then pour beef and gravy into ungreased 2 quart casserole dish then spread mashed potatoes evenly over beef mixture
- Step 9
- before baking you may add small pats of butter and chopped parsley to top of casseroleBake in 350° oven for 30-40 minutes til bubbly
- Step 10
- Option: Brown top of potatoes by placing casserole under broiler on high to give potatoes golden brown color about 5 minutes. Moving dish as needed to create uniform color