Shepherd's Pie

About this time last year, I went home from work sick one day. I ended up on my couch for about 8 hours ... which was enough time to stumble upon my first episode of Downton Abbey ... and then promptly watch the entire season.

It was a phenomenal accident that has resulted in at least one occasion where I binge watched several episodes in a row. Most recently post Sisterly Christmas party, Baby Sister and I watched a cool 10 HOURS of Downton Abbey while dining on corn griddle cakes with honey butter. I'm pretty sure that for lunch that day we ate a box of Mac and Cheese ... but I can't be sure since I was clearly in a pretty serious tv coma.

Well, ever since this summer I've been impatiently waiting for Season 3 to debut to the US. So, it was no shock that I felt it required a whole special evening and coordinated menu to match the occasion. I had seen a link on Huffington Post for some sample menus and knew I was going to need more than one course.

Here is what I ended up with:
- Shepherd's Pie for a main course
- Apple Charlotte for dessert
Since that ended up being three new recipes, it'll be three whole new posts as well. Too much too document ... and I'm going to be doing it all again with new recipes for episode two this week.

Baby Sister was in charge of cocktails for the premiere episode. We like to call this the "Lady Mary" but I'm sure there is already another cocktail called the Lady Mary or that some bartender calls this something else as well. Regardless it was delicious. It was rose champagne, Hendrick's gin, St. Germain, and a touch of lemon juice. DELICIOUS.

Anyway, the entire evening was amazing. With many key wins out of the process including:
- finishing the bottle of champagne ... since it would clearly go bad if we didn't
- having some really great leftovers in the freezer
- some clutch moments in the premiere episode

Oh, and in normal life I'd recommend serving this with some sort of healthy green side like a veggie or something ... but since we had an appetizer and dessert on the way ... no side for us.

Here's how the pie comes together.

(Step 1) Heat a skillet to medium heat and add in a bit of olive oil. Stir in the onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Then add in the carrot and thyme. Feel free to make a joke about not having enough "thyme". I did it. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. 
(Step 2) Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring.

(Step 3) Heat a second large skillet over medium heat and add some olive oil. Add the ground beef and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
(Step 4) With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to the other skillet. You use a slotted spoon primarily because you don't want or need any of the fat from the cooking process. I know it looks like I'm adding all the fat in this picture ... but that's because I already drained it out, not because I'm lazy... even though I normally am.
(Step 5) Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. You can add in the frozen corn and peas at this point if you'd like.
(Step 6) In a new pot (not brand new, but just new to this recipe duh), add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and mash. Add the butter and milk and stir until smooth.

(Step 7) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a medium casserole dish. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the juices over the meat. My cooking yielded about 5 tablespoons and so I just added it all in there but if you don't like it "juicy", use what you want. 

Note: At this point, you could toss this casserole dish (or ramekins) in the fridge or freezer if you want. You'll just need to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

(Step 8) Drop spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes on top, then spread the potatoes across the meat mixture, forming peaks, and to the edges of the dish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes since essentially everything has already been cooked. If you went with the pre-made approach, cook for about 30 minutes since you need to warm everything up. 
(Step 9) Enjoy.

Shopping List
1 tablespoon canola oil
Approx 1 1/4 pound ground beef
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon minced thyme
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
Approx 1 1/4 pound (but not less) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 to 5 tablespoons low-fat milk

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