Shepherd’s Pie: A good way to ruin mashed potatoes?

When I was about 13 years old, I walked into the kitchen one afternoon and asked mom what was for dinner. “Shepherd’s Pie,” she replied.

“What’s That!?!” I asked.

“Well, it’s ground beef with gravy, a layer of vegetables and a layer of mashed potatoes. You bake it in the oven.” Mom said.

“Sounds like a good way to ruin mashed potatoes.”

I never was a picky eater, but something about this meal just sounded gross to me. An hour or so later, I’d changed my tune and I’ve been a fan of Shepherd’s Pie ever since.

Over the years my recipe has changed many, many times. When I was in college and cash was reserved for beer, I used cream of mushroom soup as the sauce. As I grew older, made some money and learned a bit more about cooking, I abandoned the can of soup and started making sauce and seasoning the meat differently.

One of the great things about this dish is that you can use pretty much anything you want in it. I usually use peas and carrots as the veggie layer, but sometimes I use corn. No matter how you make it, Shepherd’s Pie is usually a crowd pleaser. It’s comfortable food for cold nights.

Shepherd’s Pie


1 Tbps olive oil
1 large sweet onion roughly chopped
1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey, or ground bison)
1 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1 tsp ground pepper (to taste)
2 cloves garlic (diced)
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen carrots
2 lbs red skin potatoes
1 stick of butter (divided)
16 oz, beef stock
1 cup milk


First we’ll start the potatoes to boil since they will take the longest to prepare. Next saute some onions and the meat together. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a saute pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent (about 10 minutes). Crumble the ground beef into the pan adding salt, pepper, oregano and garlic and cook throughly. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Bring the beef stock to a slow boil in the saute pan, making sure to scrap up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Next we’ll, make a roux, which we’ll use as a thickening agent to make a quick gravy out of the broth for our meat. In a separate small frying pan, melt 1/2 a stick of butter over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, add the flour and stir. Cook this mixture for about 3 minutes.

Combine the roux with the beef broth and stir over medium heat until the gravy has thickened. Transfer the gravy to the baking dish and stir thoroughly into the meat and onion mixture.

Layer the frozen vegetables on top of the meat. Sometimes, I mix them right up into the mixture, but most of the time I like to have distinct layers in the dish. By now the potatoes should be completely cooked, drain them, add the remaining 1/2 stick of butter, and milk.

Because we’ll be spreading these potatoes over the top of the dish, I like to make them fairly loose with plenty of milk to ensure that they are “spreadable”. I also usually use a hand mixer, so technically, they are whipped potatoes. Spread the potatoes over the top of the vegetable layer.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 375° F.

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