Sometimes, when the wind is blowing at record breaking speeds, darkness is setting in before you leave work, and a long winter lies ahead, you just want to eat something comforting. Furthermore, you want to eat it soonish, and with very little effort involved. Boy, do I have the recipe for you! In October of 2007, this Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe caught my attention, and it was just exactly what I found myself wanting to eat this week.
I got Real Simple magazine for a couple of years, until their suggestions started to feel familiar and the recipes I had flagged in them were piling up. I decided, at that point, not to resubscribe. But I certainly flip back through the old issues, and I recently found that you can find recipes very easily on their website - in this case, I knew what I was looking for, I just wasn't sure which old issue I would find it in. You can do searches by keywords or ingredients or cuisines or all variety of other options.
Here it is - the shamelessly modernized and Americanized version of what I imagine to be a centuries old tradition... probably involving meat scraps and whatever else was lying around! This version requires mostly things I have on hand, and a few things I can purchase with ease if I must. It takes 10 minutes to cook the beef and preheat the oven, 10 minutes to bake. Read beyond the recipe for my tips related to speeding up the mashed potato element of this recipe.
Easy Shepherd's Pie
Real Simple, October 2007
Heat the oven to 400.
Brown 1 lb ground beef.
Stir in 1/3 cup ketchup and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce.
Add 8 oz of mixed frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, green beans - whatever - thawed).
Cook one minute.
Put in a baking dish.
Mix 1 lb of mashed potatoes with 1/4 cup cheddar (cheese is optional).
Spread potatoes on top of beef and vegetables.
Bake 10 minutes.
In my case, I realized on Tuesday that I wanted to eat Shepherd's Pie, but I was unwilling to leave the house for ingredients. I looked up the recipe, moved a variety of frozen vegetables into the refrigerator to get a start on thawing, and I made a huge batch of mashed potatoes for dinner (with chicken and carrots, because I had those on hand, but that's a story for another time). If I'd had ground beef in the freezer, I would have shifted that over to thawing mode, as well. But I didn't, so I started a grocery list, instead.
Tonight after work I stopped for ground beef, came home, threw the recipe together, and I'm eating it now, while I write this post!
Here's my note about mashed potatoes. Real Simple suggests that you buy a 1 lb bin of pre-made mashed potatoes from the grocery store. I did that once, just out of curiosity, and they were actually quite good, and did eliminate the need to make mashed potatoes. However, if the goal is to make this recipe quickly, I solved that problem this time by making the potatoes in advance, so the shepherd's pie took less than 30 minutes to make. Also, mashed potatoes are incredibly easy. Here's roughly how Rachel Ray suggests doing it, in her Get Togethers cookbook:
Peel and cut into chunks, 1 pound of potatoes (2 large potatoes).
Place them in a pot, covered with water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and lightly salt. Leave uncovered and simmer at a rolling boil until tender, 8-10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, and return them to the hot pan. Mash them with half-and-half, butter, cream, milk, roasted garlic, Boursin cheese, or whatever else you like.
I used a generous splash of half-and-half, a few tablespoons of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. I had cooked three or four large handfuls of tiny potatoes, which I did not peel, as I know they were grown organically and their peel is therefore very good for me, and not at all chemical-ridden as some peel may very well be (mine are from our well stocked CSA box potato supply!).