Shepherd’s Pie is one of the first “complex” dishes I learned to make. My Mom was dating a gentleman for awhile who was a very good cook. I learned to make shortcakes from him and how to peel a Babcock peach (to fill the shortcakes). But one of my favorite lessons was how to make Shepherd’s Pie. Now I realize he had a special palate because he was very clear about the importance of making a proper stew for the “pie”.
This particular version of the classic was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Chile segment of No Reservations. There is a scene in which he is eating at the rodeo with a friend. They are served shortribs with mashed potatoes made with pumpkin, celery and spinach. I thought, “What a great way to change up a Shepherd’s Pie!”.
So in honor of the nearly triple digit heat I decided to make the stew one night at about 11pm. I used chuck, which I cut into small cubes, onion, garlic, corn cut off the cob and carrots. I dredged the meat in seasoned flour and seared it until deeply colored. After moving the meat to the casserole with the veggies I deglazed the pan with Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. I added the deglazing liquid to the casserole along with additional Rasputin and some ketchup to sweeten the whole. (The Stout is quite stout in flavor). The stew cooked for about 2 hours, covered over very low heat until the meat was tender.
The next day I peeled a few russet potatoes, a couple of sweet potatoes and put them in a pan with cold water. I added salt and some chopped green onions and celery then brought to a boil and simmered until the potatoes were tender. Then I drained the pot and put all the veggies into a bowl with melted butter and some hot milk. I used an old fashioned potato masher cause I wanted it to be a bit coarse, adding additional salt and freshly ground pepper. If you want the pie to set up and cut cleanly add a couple of beaten eggs to your mashed potato mixture. I didn’t (forgot). Then I simply made a thin layer of the potatoes in an overproof dish, layered a generous amount of stew over the potatoes then topped the stew with a thick layer of more mashed potatoes. A sprinkling of grated parmesan for browning finished it off. The “pie” went into a 375 degree oven until heated through and a bit browned on top (about 40 minutes).