Saturday, September 29, 2012

Michael’s Theater Tour Shepherd’s Pie

About 200 years ago, I won a collegiate playwriting contest, for which the prize was $1,000.  My ex-wife and I used that money to go on a "Theater Tour" of London and environs ...during which glamorous visit I first tasted old-school Shepherd's Pie.  In those days, it wasn't as easy to find recipes, never mind popping online to find dozens of, when I got home, my ex and I came up with this recipe, which is in my opinion a very tasty replica of the Pub-style working man's Shepherd's Pie we had Over There.

The nutrition facts include the mashed potato recipe below and were created at Calorie Count! This dish will be easy to adjust downward for sodium and fat if you make a simple potato and buttermilk mash-up. Or just use a bit less butter and use your favorite salt substitute.

Michael’s Theater Tour Shepherd’s Pie


3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1/2 pound small crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. brown sugar 
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 pound lean, trimmed beef, cut into 1” chunks
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Guinness Stout (or canned low sodium beef broth)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups mashed potatoes, Michael’s recipe follows the directions for meat.
3/4 cup grated Cheddar and/or Stilton cheese


Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut the well-trimmed beef into short strips, as you would for stroganoff.  Place the beef into a large, sealable plastic bag with the flour, 1/2 Tbsp. salt and black pepper.  Seal the bag and shake the beef until it is coated with the flour mixture.

Heat the olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the floured meat in the skillet and brown on all sides.  Remove and set aside to drain.  (If using Guinness, add a splash to the hot skillet and scrape the skillet to loosen the meat residue before adding veggies!)  Add the onion, oregano, garlic, celery and carrots to the skillet and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes.  Add a bit more olive oil if necessary.  Stir in the tomato paste, brown sugar and mushrooms, cooking for about 8 more minutes, until mushrooms are soft and tomato paste has turned brick red.

Stir in the Guinness (or broth), the remaining salt, the Worcestershire, a bit more pepper, and the drained beef, stirring until the alcohol has cooked out of the liquid.  (Discard the remaining flour.)

Transfer the meat and vegetables to a 2-quart oval casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese, and dot with the remaining butter.  Bake until potatoes brown lightly and the juices bubble around the edge, about 40 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Mashed Potatoes


1-1/2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, quartered (peels left on if desired)
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4 cup whole milk   
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper


Put the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water to cover by about 1-inch and add the salt.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.  At the same time, combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan.  Toss the potatoes over medium heat until dry.  Add the heated milk mixture and mash the potatoes until just slightly chunky, then stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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