Cheesey Shepherd’s Pie

A while back my roommate made a Shepherd’s Pie and I knew that I would have to make one for the blog due to it’s hearty, satisfying simplicity. I had all but forgotten about the Shepherd’s Pie until I saw an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made Shepherd’s Pie while acting out scenes from Sweeney Todd (he’s so funny!). I love how Alton Brown so meticulously pays attention to every ingredient and preparation method to get every aspect of a recipe right. It was for that reason that I decided to adapt his Shepherd’s Pie recipe for Budget Bytes. He uses lamb but I switched it for beef. Although I LOVE lamb, it just didn’t fit my budget today (maybe on a special occasion!). I didn’t have fresh rosemary or thyme so I had to make do with dried and because I was in a rush, I bought frozen peas and carrots rather than fresh. Oh yeah, I also used cheddar cheese as a binder in the mashed potatoes rather than an egg yolk (because I love cheese!). It turned out pretty tasty and I know it will keep me satisfied for the rest of the week!

Shepherd's Pie

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Total Recipe cost: $8.46
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Cost per serving: $1.06
Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 45 min. Total: 1 hr.

2.5 lbs russet potatoes $1.64
1/4 cup half and half $0.25
2 Tbsp butter $0.26
1 cup sharp cheddar $0.949
1 lb. extra lean ground beef $3.48
1 cup frozen peas and carrots $0.29
1/2 cup frozen corn $0.14
1 small onion, diced fine $0.33
2 cloves garlic, minced $0.04
1 cup beef or chicken broth $0.77
2 tsp tomato paste $0.09
1 Tbsp olive oil $0.10
1 tsp worchestershire sauce $0.05
1 tsp dried rosemary $0.05
1/2 tsp dried thyme $0.03
TOTAL $8.46

STEP 1: Because this recipe has a lot of “little” ingredients, I first gathered and measured most of what I needed. That way, when it came time to mix it all together I wouldn’t be running around the kitchen measuring this and that. I have the frozen veggies, flour, diced onion and minced garlic, rosemary and thyme, tomato paste and worchestershire, and the broth all pre-measured.

shepherd's pie ingredients

STEP 2: Wash, peel and dice the potatoes to 1/2 inch cubes. Place them in a large pot and cover with cold water. Turn the burner on to high and boil the water with a lid on. Once it begins to boil, remove the lid and simmer on medium until the potatoes are very soft.

STEP 3: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until they are soft and transparent.

STEP 4: Add the beef to the skillet and cook until it is thoroughly brown. If you are not using extra lean beef, drain the fat off at this point. Add the 2 Tbsp of flour and continue to stir and cook for 2 more minutes. The flour is going to thicken the gravy. It is important to cook the flour slightly so that the finished gravy does not have a pasty/floury flavor.

STEP 5: After the floury beef has had a chance to cook slightly, add the broth, tomato paste, worchester sauce, rosemary, thyme and frozen vegetables. I also added about a 1/2 tsp of salt and 10 cranks of fresh ground black pepper. Stir and simmer until the sauce thickens (this should only take a few minutes). Keep the mixture in the skillet on low heat until you are ready to assemble the casserole.

STEP 6: When the potatoes have boiled to the point where they are very soft (check with a fork), drain them in a colander then return them to the pot (turn the burner off). If they are finished boiling while you are still working on the beef mixture (as mine were), simply put a lid on the pot and they will stay warm until you are ready to mash them (do not keep the burner on). Add the half and half, butter and salt and pepper to taste to the potatoes. Mash until your little arms are too tired to mash any more! When they are smooth and fluffy, stir in a 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese.

STEP 7: Now it is time to assemble! First, spread all of the beef mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish (it doesn’t matter what size as long as it will hold everything. A larger dish will make a shallow casserole, a small dish will make a tall/thick casserole). Next, spread the potatoes over the top of the meat mixture. Alton Brown suggests starting at the edges and moving toward the center. I found this to be the easiest method also.

shepherd's pie meat mixtureuncooked shepherd's pie

STEP 8: Top the casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and put it in the oven to bake. Bake at 350 until the top is crispy and slightly brown. This took me about 30 minutes.

shepherd's pie cooked

Cheesey! And it smelled as good as it looks!

NOTE: I’ve had a few readers ask about the fact that I list only the cost of the portion of an ingredient used in a recipe but not the full price of purchasing a container of said ingredient. I try (as hard as I can) to use up the “unused” portions of ingredients from recipes so that none will go to waste. When I can save and use the rest of something, I will list only the cost of the amount used in the recipe because I will most likely use the rest in another recipe and account for the remaining cost there. If the rest can not be saved, I will just list the price of the entire container. This recipe was a good example of that. I bought a can of tomato paste (of which I only used 2 tsp of) and a can of chicken broth (which I only used 1 cup of). Because I barely used any of the tomato paste in the can at all, I decided to freeze the rest. Tomato paste will freeze great so long as it is wrapped tightly. When I freeze something, I make sure to label and date it. I regularly peruse my refrigerator and freezer looking for items that need to be used up before they go to waste.

tomato paste

The chicken stock could either be used to help mash the potatoes or frozen in ice cube trays to use later (once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag). Unfortunately, I didn’t think about the mashed potato idea until it was too late and I didn’t want to freeze just one cup of stock so I let the rest of the can go to wast :( Therefor, I just listed the price of the entire can in the cost breakdown.

There are a million and two variations on Shepherd’s Pie. What is your favorite? I’m interested in trying more!