Shepherd’s pie – another one of those quintessential comfort food dishes.
Comfort food is an overused term in the food world. But you won’t hear me complaining. Comfort food has always been around. It’s just that we have a nice little click bait-friendly term for it nowadays. It’s all-encompassing – but I usually see two common threads: comfort food is hot, and it’s carb-packed.
What is the definition of comfort food anyway?
It’s defined as, “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”
Point being – it’s about memories, and less so about the food itself.
I’ve only had Shepherd’s Pie one other time in my life. But the specifics are hazy.
It was somewhere in New York, at one of those British pubs. Probably on a side street off of 5th Avenue. And I probably ordered a Guinness with it – those were my Guinness days. It’s a major food gap in my cooking repertoire at home, so this dish was a long time coming.
My other major food gap? Duck leg confit. Wow, was I missing out.
D’Artagnan produces package-sealed duck confit that you can pull out of the freezer and put straight under a broiler. I bought them on a whim. And I almost cried while eating it – I’m not being hyperbolic, I was so elated by the revelation of duck fat that I almost cried. It was perfect. Duck fat is like chicken fat, but gamier. I didn’t know duck, stewed in duck fat, could taste so good.
This shepherd’s pie, while not as much a revelation as duck confit, is still that blow-your-mind level comfort food. No fond childhood memories required – it’s just plain good.
Making some of these foods at home, at the right place and time, are reminiscent of childhood home cooking. Browning the ground beef, the smell of boiled potatoes, and sauteeing mirepoix all brought back smells, tastes and sights that trigger those fuzzy memories.
But, we need to make room for the new comfort foods in our lives. For me that’s absolutely and unequivocally, duck confit. Even if it’s package sealed sometimes.
Happy comfort food cooking! 😊
I N G R E D I E N T S
Makes 4 small casseroles.
- 2 lbs. red bliss potatoes, cut into large cubes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
- 3 tablespoons black truffle butter
- 1 egg
- 1 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
- 2 carrots, small diced
- 2 celery stalks, small diced
- 1 large white onion, small diced
- 1 / 2 lb. mushrooms, small diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons thyme, minced
- 1 splash red wine vinegar
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
D I R E C T I O N S
- Preheat the oven to 350*.
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned and broken up, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are tender.
- In the meantime, heat a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the potatoes back to the pot, adding the butter, truffle butter, heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of salt. Beat with a hand mixture until the potato mixture is thickened. Allow the potatoes to cool for 10 minutes. Then crack the egg into the potato mixture, stirring until incorporated. Put the potato mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- To the meat mixture, add the water, bouillon cube, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, bay leaf and thyme. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from the heat, allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, and put the mixture in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
- In 4 6 by 4 inch casserole dishes, or gratin dishes, layer the meat mixture, then the potato mixture. With a fork, create small peaks with the potato mixture. This will help parts of the pie brown in the oven. Place the pies on a sheet pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peaks on the potato have browned.
- Serve hot.