Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd’s Pie is one of my absolute favorite foods. It truly is a comfort food classic. For a long time, I only got it when I went out to Irish pubs but a few months ago I tried making it at home and it was so easy and delicious! Plus, I had control of what ingredients went into the dish. After my delivery from Washington’s Green Grocer last week, I had some great local ground lamb from Border Springs Farm just waiting to be cooked up into Shepherd’s Pie deliciousness – so that’s what was on the menu for dinner last night. Granted, Shepherd’s Pie is not a light dish – and it’s definitely not veggie-centric, but it order to eat healthy we have to let ourselves have some of the things we love – in moderation. So my solution is to have Shepherd’s Pie at home, in a reasonable portion size, with a nice big green salad on the side. Yum.

For this recipe, you are going to need some prepared mashed potatoes for your shepherd’s pie topping. It’s a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes – but if you don’t have any take the time to peel and cube up some potatoes now (any kind you like) and throw them into some water to boil while you cook. Once the potatoes are tender, drain and mash them up with a few tablespoons of butter and enough milk to make them the proper consistency. You can add shredded cheese to your potatoes if you like, I personally keep them plain.

Now first thing’s first – get yourself a cast iron skillet. Nothing sears meat and imparts flavor quite like cast iron. And they are pretty cheap, and last forever. Literally, some people have cast iron skillets that have been passed down from their grandparents. I’m not that lucky, but I do have a fresh cast iron skillet of my own to season over the years. Now, get the skillet nice and hot and add a little oil of your choice (I use olive oil for just about everything). When the oil starts to ‘ripple’ – it’s ready for the meat to hit the pan. Sear the meat in a hot pan, and after a few minutes add a chopped onion and a few cloves of grated (or minced) garlic.

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Of course when I made this last night, I didn’t have any onion in the house. Never mind the fact that I had literally been to the grocery store 30 minutes before cooking this dish. Oh well. This time I used a little granulated onion. Once the meat is nice and browned and the onions are translucent, add a tablespoon of tomato paste. Have you discovered the tomato paste in a tube yet? It’s amazing! Use what you need, recap, and then throw it back in the fridge. No reason to do the canned-tomato-paste dance and buy a can, only use a portion of it, try to save it in the fridge in a Tupperware and inevitably forget and end up throwing it away. No sir, those days are over. SautΓ© the tomato paste for a minute or two, until incorporated, and then add a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. At this point, you can add about 1/2 cup of broth if your pan is looking dry. Personally, I had enough liquid from the fat of the lamb to skip this step and move right to tossing in the frozen carrots and peas!

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Feel free to use fresh carrots and peas (in which case the carrots would need to be added in at the same time as the onions and garlic in order to have time to soften), but I always keep some Alexia Organic frozen carrots and peas in the freezer for throwing into soups, stir-frys, etc. so this is a great use for them. Once the peas and carrots are mixed in, you can top the whole dish with the mashed potatoes and place in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes to crisp up the top.

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Yum. I think Shepherd’s Pie is my favorite comfort food.

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