More vegetables, more flavor.
In the rankings of delicious comfort food, this beef and mushroom shepherd’s pie is at the top of the list. First, there’s the generous mashed potato topping, made crusty brown on top in the broiler for maximum flavor and appeal. Then, there is the interior: a warm, stew-like filling of beef, onion, and vegetables.
Most shepherd’s pies are very beef heavy, with vegetables a secondary component. But this recipe keeps every bit of the hearty, satisfying charm while upping the vegetables, with the help of earthy, meaty mushrooms.
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Recipe Notes: Beef and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
Technically, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, and Irish in origin. A beef-based pie is a cottage pie, with British origin, since the Irish ate more lamb than the beef-loving Brits. But the distinctions have blurred over time, with shepherd’s pie being the most common name for both, especially in the States, so I call this beefy casserole shepherd’s pie, albeit incorrectly!
This shepherd’s pie recipe uses a very well-known Cook’s Illustrated recipe as its starting point. I love how they rake the mashed potatoes with a fork and throw the entire skillet under a broiler to give the potatoes a fabulous brown crust.
That said, Cook’s Illustrated recipes — while doubtless technically close to perfect — can have a way of being, well, a little fussy. A little too science lab for a weeknight meal, adding cornstarch to carbonara here, baking soda to raw meat there. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes I get a little into the weeds with their recipes.
So like the good people at Cook’s, I wondered if I could test my way to a better version for me, one that was streamlined, with simplified ingredients. And I did! By subbing a glug of red wine for Madeira (granted, the 19th century Irish peasants who developed this recipe used neither), adjusting some flavors, and simplifying the ingredients, I came up with a recipe that everyone raves about.
Some shepherd’s pie tips:
- Keep a close eye when you broil the pie to finish. The mashed potatoes will brown fairly quickly, probably in about 10 minutes, tops.
- If you really want to simplify, use gold potatoes instead of russets. Gold potatoes have a thin, delicious skin that can be eaten. Russet potatoes have to be peeled for mashed potatoes.
- If you want to beef up your pie (literally), use 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, and only four ounces of mushrooms
- Make sure your ground beef is very lean. I use 93% lean. Otherwise, the shepherd’s pie will be greasy.
Did you make this Beef and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie? How was it?
Beef + Mushroom Shepherd's Pie
- 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 bunch scallions, green and light green parts only, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and large diced
- 4 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 quart unsalted chicken or beef stock
- 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- kosher salt
- fresh-ground pepper
- Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Cook the potatoes at a nice simmer until fork tender. Drain. Return to the pot and allow any excess water to evaporate. Add the butter, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a few turns of black pepper. Mash the potatoes until soft. Stir in the sliced scallions. Taste for seasoning; you may want a little more salt. Set aside.
- While the potatoes are boiling, heat a large, oven-proof skillet with the oil over medium- to medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the carrots, onion, thyme, bay leaves, mushrooms, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly brown. Add the tomato paste and stir until coated.
- Deglaze the skillet with the Worcestershire and red wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the skillet. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer and add the ground meat in 2 tablespoon-sized chunks. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir half way to turn the meat and break the beef chunks up a bit.TIP: This may be a good time to see if the potatoes are done.
- Use a fork and a small bowl to whisk the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water. Make a well in the beef and vegetable mix. Add the slurry and continue to simmer for another minute or two. Give everything a nice stir. The mixture should be thick and stewy, but not soupy. If it seems liquid-y, continue to cook for another minute or two.
- Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems.
- Preheat the broiler. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a gallon bag. Snip one corner and twist the top opening shut. This is your piping bag. Pipe the potatoes evenly over the potatoes. Smooth with a spatula, then use a fork to rake the top of the mashed potatoes.
- Broil 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
- Cool 10 minutes before serving.