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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Potato Tot-Topped Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s pie recipes were first developed in England in the mid-19th century. Recipes differ from traditional meat pies because they do not involve meat enclosed in a pastry crust. Instead, shepherd’s pie consists of a layer of ground meat and a few vegetables topped with a creamy layer of mashed potatoes. The dish is baked until the top of the potatoes forms a golden-brown crust.

The first shepherd’s pie recipes included ground lamb, a bit of onion, and perhaps some peas and carrots. The lamb produced some gravy as it was cooking. The result was almost an upside down version of potatoes with gravy. Shepherd’s pie had more substance than simple mashed potatoes, though, because of the quantity of meat in the recipe.


2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 pounds coarse ground sirloin, pat very dry with paper towels
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
Salt and pepper
About 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons butter
2 rounded tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cloudy apple cider or amber beer
2 cups beef stock in a box
1 cup chopped watercress leaves (I omitted this, my family would not have eaten it)
1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bag frozen tater tots

For a quicker version, I omitted the fresh vegetables and substituted a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Heat a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high to high heat with oil, 2 turns of the pan. When oil ripples, add meat and brown well, stirring occasionally. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften vegetables, 10-12 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and reduce heat to simmer.

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in cider or beer. Reduce by half then whisk in stock and thicken to a loose gravy.

Place meat and vegetables in a casserole dish and stir in watercress and gravy. Top with cheddar and tots, and bake until tots are golden and crispy on top.

Recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray -