Shepherd’s Pie

The arrival of a bulk share from the CSA can be a little intimidating for me. Large volumes of a single type of produce, particularly a perishable one, make me worry that I won’t be able to use it all in time. Actually, it’s mostly PTSD from when the bulk share of basil arrives and I end up spending a couple of hours elbow deep in green leaves, washing, spinning dry, and grinding them into pesto. Hmmm… I think I’ll just stop this rant here as I’m realizing what a first world problem that is.

Anyway, our bulk share of potatoes arrived, and what with the persistent late fall winds and rains, my mind turned to the comfort of fluffy mashed potatoes. I particularly liked the idea of trying to make a shepherd’s pie to boost the comfort factor even further by wrapping all the sides and main dish in one.

I wanted this dish to be an appealing mix of color and flavor. I love the way the bright orange and purples of the carrots and spritely green of the peas pop up throughout the warm brown of caramelized hamburger meat. For a change-up in flavors, I wanted the potatoes to be a little tangy so I added some sour cream and Gruyère cheese to the mash. Perhaps that’s what makes this such a great cold weather meal: the meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes is the baseline of warming comfort food but the carrots and peas are a touch of spring and bring thoughts of warmer seasons. I love how this is hearty but not heavy, and I think that the way I would improve this would be by taking a tip from a recent Cook’s Illustrated beef stew recipe– add a little bit of gelatin to create a velvety feel to the gravy.

  • 1.75 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 medium carrots (purple if you got ’em), chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2.5 lbs German butterball potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop potatoes into 1 inch sized pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil, then add about 1 to 2 tsp of salt. Boil uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender.

While potatoes are boiling, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook with minimal stirring to brown the meat.  Meat should be cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and carrots, and cook for another 5 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan and sprinkle the flour evenly over the meat. Mix in the flour, cooking for about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and simmer until a thickened gravy forms. Stir in the peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the potatoes and throw them back immediately into the hot pot. Shake the pot a little to dry off the potatoes. Add the sour cream, 2 tbsp of butter, and cheese. Pour in the cream a little bit at a time as you mash it all together to avoid adding too much cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the ground beef mix into a large baking dish, a 13 by 9 inch pan should work. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the ground beef in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

CSA Count: 4

Onion, garlic, purple carrots, German butterball potatoes


2 thoughts on “Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Hillary Woods says:

    The more I read about your adventures with CSA produce, the more convinced I become that I want to involve myself with one.

    This recipe looks amazing! What does Cooks Illustrated specifically say about using gelatin in a gravy? That is an idea I have not encountered before.

    • CJW says:

      Thanks Hillary! So Cooks Illustrated wanted to imitate the luxurious feel of veal stock in a beef stew gravy but without having to go through the 2 day process of making a good rich veal stock. The thought is that the collagen from the veal bones in a stock could be substituted with gelatin. So their beef stew recipe calls for sprinkling 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin in a cup of water, letting it sit to soften for 5 minutes then add it to stew in the last 15 minutes of cooking. It really did create a nice mouthfeel when I tried it out– all silky smooth.

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