Updated Shepherd’s Pie


We got our first snow of the year this week!  Just a dusting, but enough to make for a white morning.  It’s cold, but dry enough, so it doesn’t feel like that bitter, seeping chill.  Our winter has, otherwise, been fairly warm, so I’ll take it!  All through the fall, winter, and early spring, Shepherd’s Pie is in my rotation at least a few times each month.  It is one of a few select dishes that M and I will eat the leftovers with as much gusto as the fresh serving.  (Given that my lunches are alway leftovers, I relish when a dish is just as good the day after.)  Also, this recipe usually gives us between 6-8 servings, so it packs a real punch in my weekly meal plans.  Better yet, it’s not too hard to double the recipe and it freezes well. (Just thaw for 24 hours/overnight before reheating!)  Plus, I have successfully replaced half of the ground meat with finely chopped mushrooms and/or cooked lentils to great success.  Tasty? Check.  Reliable? Check! Cheap? Check!


I’ve been making Shepherd’s Pie from memory for several years now, though I shared my recipe, here, a long time ago.  When M and I were planning for our trip to the beach house this year, we decided to make Shepherd’s Pie on our dinner shift.  I was totally surprised to find that I had organically adjusted from my original recipe without even noticing.  So here is how I make Shepherd’s pie now, in 2017.  As my friend pointed out, the big difference that makes this dish so good is that equal effort is put into seasoning and flavoring the potato topping as well as the meat, keeping the whole thing in balance and making every bite delicious!  (And in case you were wondering, it is pretty simple to multiply this recipe by 6, in order to feed 25 hungry people at once–just make sure you have big pans!)


Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 20 min. | Cook time: 30-40 min

For the Topping:

  •  1-1.5 lb potatoes (russets are ideal)
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1+ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • fresh chives, optional
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling

For the Filling:

  • -1 lb ground beef or ground lamb
  • -Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp/enough to coat the pan)
  • -1 large/2 medium carrot(s), finely chopped
  • -1 large yellow or white onion, finely diced
  • -1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -2 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic, you can use less, to your taste)
  • -3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • -3-4 Tbsp Ketchup
  • -1/4 c red wine (I used a cabernet we had lying around)
  • -1/4 c chicken or beef broth/stock
  • -3/4 c. frozen green peas
  • salt & pepper

Start the potatoes:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes.  Place in a pot and cover with water an inch above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the filling:

While the potatoes are cooking, add the oil to a hot pan, then add the chopped carrots and onions.  Sauté over medium-high for about five minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften, then add in the ground meat*.  Cook, stirring often to break up the minced meat.  Drain the fat if necessary.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes more until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, stirring well to coat the entire mixture.  Then add the wine, broth, and peas.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer while mashing the potatoes.

Make the potato topping:

Drain the potatoes and add in the remaining ingredients.  Mash together into one smooth mixture.  Taste and add more salt or pepper, if needed.

Finish Up:

By now, the liquid in your meat mixture should have reduced some.  In a well-oiled dish, layer first the meat mixture, then the potato topping.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is golden.

*If replacing half the meat: With mushrooms–add to the carrots and onions for the beginning, allowing the mushrooms to cook down before adding the meat.  With cooked lentils: add after all the meat has browned.



Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Hash

Hashes are all over the web and are one of those dishes that don’t really have (or need) a proper recipe.  It is a quick, easy, delicious dish(that I favor as breakfast, but could be made for any meal) that uses up copious leftovers.  It was a no brainer for me, as I love hash with eggs.  And, while I did forget to make the sweet potato souffle for Thanksgiving, I had already separated the six eggs I would need.  So I had to use up a lot of eggs on top of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and the rest. If you still have some bits of dishes hanging around, try a hash for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Hash is easy.  Choose the ingredients you want to include in your hash.  Meat and potatoes are traditional, but from there, the sky is the limit.  I choose some brussel sprouts and some sausage stuffing from Thanksgiving, a bit of onion and some tomatoes.  Chop all your ingredients into equal-sized pieces (shoot for smaller than bite-sized, so you can have a bit of each ingredient in each bite).  Heat some oil or butter in a saute pan, and, when hot, added your ingredients, cooking until heated through and the potatoes have a good crisp crust.  If you want to add some spices or cheese, right before removing from heat, feel free.

Scrape hash onto plates or find a new pan to make your eggs in.  Make your eggs however you like, and slide on top of the hash.  I had some cranberry relish alongside because I can’t get enough of the stuff.



Good luck with the last of your leftovers.  M’s mum made turkey pasta salad last night so I think (*crosses fingers*) we’ve almost gotten through all of our leftovers.  Last thing left to do is try my hand at homemade stock!

Thanksgiving 2012 recap

Well, Thanksgiving was about as successful as we expected it to be…so, not half-bad. 🙂  We had a ridiculous amount of food, as all cooks involved got slightly overzealous.  The six of us found ourselves with enough food for at least a dozen guests, if not more.  At final count we had the turkey, 2 types of stuffing, cranberry relish, popovers, spinach, gravy, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, braised carrots, ratatouille, hummus, crab dig with french bread and brie with cranberry chutney.  As I said, ridiculous.  Ah well, we’ve reached day four of leftovers and  I’m just about done with “Thanksgiving” flavors.  That being said, the shredded Turkey barbecue sandwiches, re-fried roasted potato salad, and coleslaw that graced last night’s dinner plater were awesome.  Use the strong flavors of regional foods (Asia, Barbecue, Mexican, etc) to jazz up the last of the leftovers languishing in your fridge!

I stayed in my pajamas through the parade and the dog show (and most of the cooking).  And started the day off right with one or three of these:

M was (mostly) in charge of the turkey this year.  We talked briefly about brining, something neither of us have ever attempted and decided not to try it.  Instead, we rubbed the whole turkey with herbed butter (including beneath the skin), tossed an onion, celery, carrots, apple, thyme, and cinnamon into the cavity and let it go.  It roasted for about 5.5 hours and we found ourselves with this transformation:

We followed Alton Brown’s tips generally and look at the perfect browning!  M and I have agree to try brining next year, simply because we are curious, but the herbed butter added succulence to the crisp skin and help keep this mostly moist.  The loose “stuffing” of vegetables shortened the cook time, reduced our risk of undercooked bread dressing, and added a boost of flavor to the turkey.

Meanwhile, I made my Gluten-Free Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing again (and in the crock pot again), and added toasted pine nuts and cooked cranberries (cranberries+1 Tbsp each sugar and water, cooked for 15-20 minutes over medium heat until most berries have burst) as I ladled it into a casserole pan and finished it to crispy in the oven.  Unfortunately (again! ughh!) I forgot to take a proper photo of the stuffing.  I’ll have to stuff a chicken soon (when we’re ready to face a roasted bird again) and get some proper photos for you all!  The addition of pine nuts and cranberries was amazing!  I think I’ll try some new flavors (sausage!) next time.

The sweet potato souffle was forgotten amidst the last minute popover baking.  But I’d trade souffle for popovers any day.

The paler rolls are made from my French bread recipe.  Those were slightly disappointing.  I had trouble getting the rise I wanted out of the dough, but I’ll be working with this dough to see what other kinds of bread I can make in the future!  The actual loaves of French Bread turned out beautifully:

Picture-perfect next to my bread cubes, pre-stuffing. 🙂

Our downfall this year, aside from the vast quantities of food, was offering very filling appetizers.  The family tradition of pickles and olives is just right, enough to nibble on when the smells drifting from the oven become overwhelming.  But we also put out crab dip and my mother’s infamous brie with cranberry chutney.  Bad choice.  My mom was the only one to think to pace herself while I, as usual, inhaled the brie.  (There’s a reason I don’t stockpile cranberries in the freezer…the ability to make this chutney outside of Oct-Jan would be deadly).  By the time we sat down at the table, my mother was the only one who could finish her first plate!

Really, how could you resist?  I’ll be posting this delectable chutney recipe very soon.  I’m planning to can up a few jars for Christmas gifts within the week!  I have a ton of recipes and posts to share–Punc graduated her Puppy class on the Monday before Thanksgiving, I have several more recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers (in the meantime, check out last year’s Turkey-Broccoli Quiche and Mashed Potato Pancakes).  I already mentioned last night’s barbecue dinner.  It was simple enough: I shredded up slices of Turkey and added storebought barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and a touch of chicken broth until coated.  I modified this Mustard-Dill Vinagrette and poured it over sliced roasted potatoes that I had pan-fried.  I cobbled together a poor excuse for coleslaw dressing and shredded some cabbage and a couple carrot.  Serve as sandwiches and you’re done!  Bet you won’t guess it’s Thanksgiving leftovers!

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday!


Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

Well, perhaps I’m a little behind in blogosphere standards, but its better late than never to round-up my plans for Thanksgiving!  And since today is Prep Day #1, this update can help me build up my game plan for the next 48 hours.  Look at that multi-tasking skill!

This year, my family is doing Thanksgiving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  My mother works Thursday night, I have a shift at a major American retail store early (so early!) Friday morning, and my sister is coming home with a friend on Wednesday then switching to her friend’s house for Thursday then back to our home for the weekend.  Plus, with Monday and Tuesday as my days off, I would have plenty of time to prep the food. All in all, Wednesday was a better day to celebrate.

We’re sticking to a fairly traditional menu, but this is my first Thanksgiving tackling gluten-free traditions.  I’ll admit, last year, only 4 weeks after going “off” gluten and at the home of an old family friend, I cheated.  Considerably.  (Confession: I am a stuffing addict).  I wasn’t ready to tackle the huge task of de-glutifying traditional foods, and I wasn’t so adjusted to making the fuss necessary to keep myself safe and healthy.  I didn’t want to impose.

This year, I’m closer.  At the very least, I will be entirely gluten-free.  My mother is still making a batch of her from-the-bag store-bought stuffing mix that I was raised on.  I’ll be following along with the mix-in recipe on the back of the packaging, starting with a base of old-fashioned, flour-free cornbread.  Other than that sticking point, all of our rolls, our pie crusts, our gravies will be wheat- and gluten-free.  I’d say that is several steps forward.

The clock is counting down on my prep time, so, here is our

Thanksgiving Menu

  • Turkey (21 lbs, no brine or anything snazzy.  Just my mother’s tried & true roasting.  I’ll keep an eye out for any family secrets–we’ve never had dry turkey, and we’ve never had to brine for that moisture)
  • Gravy isn’t too hard for us, as we’ve always made gravy with cornstarch, even before I stopped eating gluten.  An extra minute to double-check that our broth was gluten-free was all the prep we needed.
  • Stuffing
    • Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing for my mom, sister, & guests with the traditional celery/onion/herb add in listed on the bag.
    • GF Cornbread Stuffing made with Nicole Hunn’s Old Fashioned Cornbread, a recipe using only corn meal.  I made the batter last Friday, and spread it into a greased jelly roll pan (the wide, flat cookie sheets with a low lip all around) and baked the bread at the same temperature for 10-15 minutes.  The bread came out moist and thin, so that every crouton will have the crispy crust.  With this stuffing, I will be trying to imitate the recipe on the Pepperidge farm bag (and maybe win over the critics for an entirely GF Thanksgiving for next year).  Look out for onions, herbs, celery, broth, etc adding to the mix!
  • Potatoes (I’ll be the first to admit: we’re going a little overboard on potatoes this year.  Ah well, ’tis the season to indulge!)
    • Mashed Potatoes mixed until smooth with onion and chive cream cheese, cream, and butter.  Any extra will be mixed up for potato pancakes to go with our eggs and turkey hash the next morning.
    • Roasted Red Potatoes With Balsamic Dressing was one of two dishes my sister specifically requested she make.  I’m a sucker for balsamic vinegar, so a second potato dish joins our table.
    • Sweet Soul ‘Taters from Ree at The Pioneer Woman.  I made this recipe once, on a whim for no more special an occasion than a Tuesday night.  It was gone by the next morning–my mother and I polished it off for breakfast.  Sweet and crunchy, this will be the bridge dish between dinner and dessert.
  • Green Beans won’t get too fussy, although I was sorely tempted to try adding bacon and shallots for a casserole.  But this year, we stick to the classic: sauté’d with butter, letting the fresh green taste keep center stage.
  • Popovers will be gluten-free, mostly because my GF recipe starts in a hot oven, and my mother’s needs to start cold.  I used a recipe modified from Living Without‘s October issue


  • – 1 c. milk
  • -4 eggs
  • -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • -2/3 c. white rice flour
  • -Dash salt 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a 12 cup muffin tin in the oven to preheat.  Keep the tin warm until you are ready to pour in the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, and salt.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  Carefully remove hot baking tin from oven.  Lightly grease with cooking spray.  Pour in batter, filling cup s 3/4 full.  Place popovers in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees for the final 15 minutes.  It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.

  • Cranberry Sauce is the second recipe my sister claimed.  All I know is that it will contain oranges as well.  We also have plenty of that lovely American staple: canned, jellied cranberry sauce.  We will serve it in the perfect can shape and all.  Some traditions cannot be broken.
  • Pumpkin Pie using my riff on Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Pie Crust and the filling recipe on the back of the Libby’s can of pureed pumpkin.  Again, a classic.

And we have our family’s tradition of pickles (sweet and dill) and olives (traditionally black, though we’re stirring things up and adding feta-stuffed green olives to the mix) and nuts to tide over the nibblers in the last hour, when all the smells drag everyone to the kitchen, milling apprehensively as we wait for popovers to rise, for the turkey to set, as we mash the potatoes.

The pre-dinner nibbles are a bit of a mystery.  I’m not sure who first set out the dish of pickles and olives on that first Thanksgiving…most who hear this tradition look at me like I’m a little crazy.  Finally, last year, my friend from New England backed up my insistence, as her family does the same.  Maybe its a northern thing?  My dad is from New England.  Either way, I’ll have a dish out for all of my Thanksgivings.  It keeps fingers from picking at the turkey wings.

I keep going back and forth as to whether I should make another vegetable dish (or another dessert) but time will be that deciding factor.  Today (Prep Day #1) I’ll be baking the sweet potatoes, mixing the wet and dry for Sweet Soul ‘Taters but storing the two parts separately.  I’ll be mixing the pie crust dough and let that refrigerate overnight.  My cornbread has been going stale on the counter all weekend.  Tomorrow, I’ll chop all the veggies, bake the pie, and set up mise en place.  The turkey will have to go in quite early Wednesday morning, so that we can eat by 1pm or 2pm, and having everything set up in a clean kitchen will let us have a little longer to sleep.

Thanksgiving dinner.  Here we go!


Shepherd’s Pie

I read somewhere that every unemployed person should have a blog.  I don’t know if intent behind it was to use up the extra time inherent to those of us not in the workplace, or, because, without time taken up in the office, the unemployed are expected to have thrilling adventures instead.

I wish it was the latter, but at the best of times, this blog does serve as distraction.  That really, is what I’m lacking.  Four years in a theater department; working directly on four shows in nine months, and supporting the rest; working on the leadership boards of two organizations; staying on top of classes, homework, and a part-time job…I have, quite literally, forgotten how to not be busy.  Faced with free time that spans more than a few tv shows (in my case, days or weeks of no real goal or occupational responsibilities), I’m at a loss.  I’ve found myself swinging from lethargy to frustration, floating in bouts of enthusiasm and shattering self-doubt.  My sleep schedule is entirely haywire, my muscles are stiff and protesting from sitting (ironically) in front of a computer or the television.    I’m munching needlessly through out the day, and overcaffienating at the strangest hours.  All is entirely lost when my mother (and sole roommate) works for several days in a row, and we, literally, sleep whenever the other is awake.

I need human contact (cuddling does wonders), I need face-to-face interaction, and I need to be busy.  The most detrimental times are when, quite literally, I’m left alone with just my thoughts.  I can’t be in my head for so long.  Being busy (and loving what I was doing) was my strongest tactic to move forward.  Those little voices of self-doubt and self-hate and panic that torture me through the end of high school have finally been mostly quieted after four years of happy, productive college life.  But too long without proper distractions and they start to wake up again.  Those are the worst days.

I just have to remind myself: keep busy.  Do little chores, stretch, draw, cook.  So often, it comes back to cooking.  A wonderful distraction, with a (usually) delicious result.  And the added calories, and added cost of ingredients…  I’m still working out that balance.  But over the weekend, I found a dish that is perfectly on point.

Its finally cooling off here, though maybe I’m still biased after Vegas.  I was freezing the first day back.  But finally, between the earthquakes and hurricanes, the humidity is dropping along with the temperature.  Fall is in the air, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Fall is full of my favorite things: apples, sweaters, crisp air, the first fires lit in the fireplaces, boots, squash, just to name a few.  So maybe I jumped the gun a little, making a shepherd’s pie before the first frost…  But really, can you blame me?  I’d just like to point out, if it is this delicious now, how wonderful will this dish be on a snowy night?

Shepherd’s Pie with gluten-free French Bread

 Shepherd’s Pie  (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Recipe

For the Topping:

  • – 1-1.5 lb potatoes
  • -2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • -3 Tbsp butter
  • -3 Tbsp cream cheese
  • -2 egg yolks
  • -1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling

For the Filling:

  • -1-1.5 lb ground beef or ground lamb
  • -Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp/enough to coat the pan)
  • -1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • -1 large yellow or white onion, finely diced (or even minced, if you have the patience)
  • -1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -4 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic, you can use less, to your taste)
  • -2-3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • -3-4 Tbsp Ketchup
  • -1/4 c red wine (I used a cabernet we had lying around)
  • -1/2 c chicken or beef broth/stock

Peel and roughly chop your potatoes.  Toss into a pot, cover with water, add salt.  Cook for 15 minutes more after the water begins to boil, or until a fork slides easily into a piece of potato.  Drain the potatoes and mash with the heavy cream, butter, cream cheese, egg yolks, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Mash and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Cover and keep warm until the filling is complete.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet  over medium heat, and add your meat.  Stir constantly for several minutes, to break up the meat as it browns.  Drain the meat, if necessary, and add your chopped carrots and onions.  Cook for five to ten minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften.  Add in minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and stir for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn.  Add Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, mix thoroughly.  Stir in red wine.  Allow the wine to cook down for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has noticeably lessened.  Add in stock or broth and cook for 3 minutes more, until the liquid just begins to decrease.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Meanwhile, spoon the meat mixture into a deep, well-greased casserole dish.  Make sure all the liquid in the pan is poured over the meat as well.  Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, until all of the meat layer is covered.  Sprinkle more parmesan cheese over the top of the potatoes.  Bake the shepherd’s pie for 18-20 minutes, until the top of the potato is browned and the cheese is melted and browning.  Remove from the oven and allow the pie to rest for a few minutes before spooning into individual portions.  Serve with toasted bread (gluten-free or otherwise) to soak up any extra gravy from the bowl.