Welcome back, dear reader! I have a good one for you today!
I grew up in a small town in northern New Brunswick, where meat and potatoes for dinner was the norm. One of my most favourite meals that Daddy would prepare for us was Shepherd’s Pie.
Over the years, it has become a staple item for me to prepare when I’m feeling lonesome for my parents, or nostalgic about the “good ole days”, when I was a kid and didn’t have the pressures of adulthood weighing me down. It’s also quite a crowd pleaser for even the pickiest of children, if you don’t put weird things like mushrooms in it.
I remember being in university and trying to stretch a dollar; back in those days of student loans, I didn’t have much money for anything other than groceries, so I made it count. I would make meals that I could live off of for days, and Shepherd’s Pie was often my go-to meal. It’s one of those easy, no-fail comfort foods that always hits the spot. Back in the olden days, my Shepherd’s Pies were very plain. I didn’t know what spices to use, and didn’t waste money on extravagances such as beef broth, tomato paste, or marjoram. Now, after years of tweaking and adjusting the recipe, I have settled on my best version of Shepherd’s Pie.
However, I know some of you will look at the recipe and probably vomit a bit in your mouths. You’ll see the ingredient “cream corn” and you’ll either shudder or be indifferent. My good friend Scott won’t come near an open can of cream corn, believing it to be the food of devils. He actually calls it “trash”, which I think is a bit harsh. But that’s what I’m used to because Daddy always used it. So the recipe I’ll post here will call for it; feel free to omit if you don’t like it. Same goes for vegetables in the meat; sometimes you want a bit more nutritional content, so you can add some frozen carrots and peas, and sometimes you leave the meat plain. And sometimes I just butter the top of the pie and sometimes I put a Parmesan crumb on top. It’s such a versatile and satisfying dish.
My best friend Shane just loves my Shepherd’s Pie. I went to Calgary for a visit in October, 2019, and stayed with Shane and his wife Becky and, as a treat to thank him for picking me up at the airport, I made him Shepherd’s Pies, one to eat and one to freeze. He was so appreciative. It makes me happy to do nice things for people, and anyone who knows me knows I show my affection through food.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 can (12oz) corn niblets, drained
- 1 can (14.75oz) cream corn
- 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted, divided
- 2 Tbsp bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp paprika
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a 9×13 baking dish, spread out the cream corn and the corn niblets. Mix them together. Set aside.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the beef over medium-high heat until it is no longer pink.
3. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, and marjoram, cooking until the onions are soft. Add any other vegetable you want at this point. Make sure they are chopped small. When your vegetables are soft, sprinkle with the flour; stir, and cook for one minute. Stir in stock, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Layer the mixture on top of the corn.
4. Meanwhile, boil your potatoes in a big pot of salted water, about 15 minutes until they are soft. Drain and mash them. Add the milk and 1 Tbsp melted butter. Stir. Season with salt and pepper. Layer the potatoes on top of the meat. Spread evenly. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point the day before, then covered and refrigerated.)
5. Combine the remaining 1 Tbsp butter, Parmesan cheese, paprika, and bread crumbs in a small bowl; spread over the top of the pie.
6. Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 35 minutes (50 minutes, if refrigerated) or until filling is bubbling out the top.
If you know me at all, you know I love to feed my friends. When I discovered that my BFF Shane loved Shepherd’s Pie, I felt it was my mission to make the best one he’d ever eaten. I think maybe I did a good job, based on the rave reviews. When I intend to freeze them, I double the recipe and I put them in these little containers that come with covers. Just defrost one in the fridge during the day, then uncover it and cook at 375°F for about an hour, until heated through and bubbly.
As I said earlier, you can use or not use the cream corn. You can add vegetables to your meat or leave it plain. I’ve used shredded carrots, frozen mixed veggies, mushrooms (kids hated it) and even some chopped spinach and kale. If you’re feeling really frisky, you can use buttermilk instead of regular milk for your mashed potatoes. If you’re feeling truly sexy, you’ll steam your potatoes instead of boiling them and squeeze them through a ricer and then stir in your milk and butter and add sour cream and cream cheese… but that’s a discussion for another post about the most perfect mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten. Oh yes. Stay tuned…