Mix-and-Match Shepherd’s Pie

Here’s the fool-proof formula for making shepherd's pie from scratch — you just need to pick the mix-ins!

(Beef-Horseradish Shepherd's Pie)

(Beef-Horseradish Shepherd's Pie)

1. Cook the Potatoes

Peel 2 pounds potatoes (choose one kind) and cut into large chunks. You can leave the skin on Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes. Cover the potatoes with cold water in a large pot; season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, 20 minutes.

  • Russet potatoes
  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Red-skinned potatoes

2. Pick the Meat

Choose one kind or use a combination — you’ll need 1 1/2 pounds total.

  • Ground beef
  • Ground lamb
  • Ground turkey

3. Make the Filling

  • While the potatoes cook, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in 1 chopped onion or sliced leek and 2 chopped large carrots, parsnips or turnips (or a combination). Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground meat. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 6 minutes. Spoon off the fat and season the meat with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme; cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Make a space in the center of the skillet; add 3 tablespoons tomato paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 1 minute. Stir into the meat along with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce. Stir in 3/4 cup dry white or red wine, tomato juice or stout. Simmer until the skillet is nearly dry, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup low-sodium broth and simmer until the mixture is saucy, 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Choose Your Mix-Ins

Stir in 1 cup frozen vegetables. Transfer the filling to a 3-quart baking dish.

  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Lima beans
  • Mixed small vegetables

5. Assemble the Dish

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add 4 tablespoons butter and 2/3 cup half-and-half or milk; mash well. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and add up to three of the following mix-ins. Spread the potatoes over the meat with the back of a spoon. Bake at 425˚ until the topping is golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes.

Photograph by Ralph Smith

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