Sunday, February 17, 2013

Recipe: Shepherd's Pie

Based on a November 2012 recipe from Cook's IllustratedPrepared for dinner on October 28, 2012

  • The original Cook's Illustrated recipe has 4 steps of instructions. My recipe has 34. It's basically the same procedure but I prefer each step to provide instructions to do just one thing. I also move some instructions from the Ingredients list to the Instructions list. For example, instead of specifying a chopped onion in the list of Ingredients I'll just specify an onion then, at the appropriate point, have an instruction to peel and chop it.


1½ pounds 93% lean ground beef
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
2½ pounds russet potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup milk
1 large egg yolk
8 scallions
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion
4 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Madeira or ruby port
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cups beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots
2 teaspoons cornstarch



  1. In a large bowl, use your hands to thoroughly mix the ground beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and baking soda then set the beef mixture aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Peel potatoes, cut them into 1-inch pieces, and place in a sauce pan with water to cover and 1 tablespoon table salt.
  3. Bring the potatoes to a boil then simmer over medium-low heat until they are soft enough so the tip of a paring knife meets no resistance when inserted into a potato, about 8 minutes. 
  4. Melt the butter.
  5. Thinly slice the green part of the scallions, discarding the white part.
  6. Whisk together the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl.
  7. Drain the potatoes then return the sauce pan to the stove over low heat to remove any surface moisture from the potatoes.
  8. Mash or rice the potatoes.
  9. Stir the melted butter into the potatoes.
  10. Stir the the milk/egg yolk mixture into the potatoes.
  11. Stir the sliced scallion greens into the potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and set aside.
  12. Peel and chop the onion.
  13. Trim and chop the mushrooms.
  14. Peel and press (or mince) the garlic.
  15. Peel and chop the carrots.
  16. In a broiler-safe 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.
  17. Add mushrooms, onion, ½ teaspoon table salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften and brown bits form on the bottom of the pan.
  18. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir and cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom of the pan is dark brown.
  19. De-glaze the pan with the Madeira or port, scraping the bottom to loosen all of the brown bits, about 1 minute.
  20. Add the flour, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  21. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf, and carrots; bring to a boil scraping up any brown bits.
  22. Reduce the heat, add the ground beef in 2-inch chunks, and adjust heat to simmer gently.
  23. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes
  24. Using two forks, break up the chunks of ground beef.
  25. Cover and simmer until the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  26. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water.
  27. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds.
  28. Remove skillet from the heat, remove the thyme stems and bay leaf, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  29. Heat the broiler with a rack set five inches from the broiler element.
  30. Put the mashed potatoes in a zipper-lock bag and cut off a corner of the bag to create a 1-inch opening.
  31. Pipe the potatoes evenly over the filling in the skillet then smooth them with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula.
  32. Use the tines of a fork to make ridges in the potato topping.
  33. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet then broil until the potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 10-15 minutes.
  34. Cool for 10 minutes then serve.
Mix together ground beef, water, salt, pepper, baking soda.

Make mashed potatoes, adding sliced scallion greens, butter, milk, egg yolk, salt, and pepper.
Prepare the ingredients for the filling: chopped onion, chopped carrot, fresh thyme, bay leaf, pressed garlic, chopped mushroom, cornstarch slurry, tomato paste, wine, flour, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce.
Cook onions and mushrooms in oil with salt and pepper, then add garlic and tomato paste and cook.

Deglaze with wine, add broth, flour, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaf, and carrot.

Bring to a boil then simmer.

Add ground beef mixture in two-inch chunks, simmer 5 minutes, break up the beef, and simmer another 5 minutes until the beef is cooked through.

Cover with mashed potatoes and use the tines of a fork to make ridges in the potatoes.

Broil until the potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

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