This is my version of Shepherd’s Pie, inspired by a recipe in the Dean & Deluca cookbook. I almost always cook this with ground beef, and the amounts below can be totally altered depending on your whim. I prefer to make this in a flat cast-iron skillet with decently-high sides that can be placed directly into the oven, but of course you can create this in non-oven-ready pots and combine everything in a baking dish.
Mashed Potatoes (the top layer)
6 to 8 medium red or gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup milk (or to your desired level of fluffiness)
2 tbsp butter
parsely, finely chopped (optional)
» Boil potatoes (can cut them into smaller pieces to speed cooking) in salted water in a large pot
» Drain potatoes and mash. Add 2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper (parsley optional here). Add milk (may need more or less than 1/2 cup depending on amount of potatoes) to the point where potatoes are moist but not yet liquidy.
Base of Shepherd’s Pie
1 pound lean ground beef (or ground lamb)
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp flour
1 medium yellow or white onion, minced
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup beef stock (can be skipped)
3-4 bacon rashers (in U.S., canadian bacon; can use regular bacon too)
salt and pepper
1 tsp tomato paste
» Cook bacon thoroughly in a touch of olive oil in a large cast iron frying pan (or whatever pan you have). Remove from pan and drain most of the bacon grease.
» In same pan, brown the ground beef over moderate heat and season as you cook with 1/2 tsp salt, rosemary, and worcestershire sauce. Once browned, sprinkle with flour, stirring the flour in and let cook for another 4 minutes. Remove meat and drain excess grease from pan.
» Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)
» Saute onion and carrot in frying pan and cook until onion is translucent. Increase heat slightly and add wine and stock, deglazing bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for another 5 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. (Optional: add a tsp of tomato paste for a richer flavor)
» While this is cooking, chop up bacon into small bits
» Add meat and bacon back into pan and cook together for a few minutes, until the liquid turns into a nice thick sauce (if it gets very dry, add a little more stock or wine)
Combine and bake:
» If you are using a cast iron pan, your meat and vegetables are already in the pan as the bottom layer. Otherwise, move the mixture to a baking disk. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Smooth the top (easier with a fork, which also lets you make fun patterns) and bake in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes until heated thoroughly. I will often turn the heat way up at the very end to brown the top just a bit.