Several months back one of my nieces posted on her Facebook page a picture of a Shepherd’s Pie she had made. It looked delicious and made me aware that I had never made one and I’m not sure if I had ever eaten one. Growing up my mother made a lot of casseroles with meat and veggies topped with potatoes, biscuits or cornmeal mush, but I don’t remember anything being called “Shepherd’s Pie”. Now that I’ve made one, I realize that I’ve been missing out on a delicious little classic.
I’d like to thank Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook for giving me that push I needed to make this dish. Andy is the hostess of the Daring Cooks’ December 2012 challenge. She shared with us a traditional French Canadian classic, the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, fish pie, St Stephen’s Day pie and even Shepherdless Pie. When Andy stated, “If one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!”, I was hooked. It’s definitely the season for comfort food, so I accepted the challenge and got to cooking.
I tried to stay as close to the heart of Shepherd’s Pie as I could; however, like most recipes, I had to give it my own personal little twist. This recipe keeps the traditional layers of meat and potatoes, but between these two layers is a layer of sauteed mushrooms followed by a layer of feta cheese. The meat mixture is ground beef and Mexican chorizo, corn and a touch of New Mexico red chile sauce. (Bet you didn’t see that coming. ). The result was amazing! I can’t believe it took me so long to make this dish!
Spicy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
Prep and Cook Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ’s Kitchen
Meat Mixture Layer
1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
1 pound lean ground beef
8 ounces (~200 g) Mexican chorizo (or 2 to 3 links, casing removed)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup corn (frozen, fresh or canned)
½ cup red chile sauce (See Kitchen Notes for substitute)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mushroom and Feta Layers
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
½ Tbsp. butter
½ cup feta, crumbled
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed, cut into large chunks
1 Tbsp. butter
½ cup milk plus 2 Tbsp.
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
This dish can be prepared in an hour if you multitask. Here are some tasks that can overlap.
Saute the meat mixture.
Heat the pot of water for the potatoes.
Scrub and cut up the potatoes, then cook them once the water comes to a boil.
Saute the mushrooms.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium low heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic, ground beef and chorizo.
- When the meat is cooked through (about 5 minutes), add the red chile sauce and corn. Stir to incorporate, simmer for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Spread the meat mixture to cover the bottom of the skillet.
- Fill a pot with enough water to boil the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, add the potatoes and simmer under done – 6 to 8 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces). Test with a fork to ensure that the potatoes are done. Transfer to a colander and drain.
- Transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.
- Add the butter and ½ cup milk. Continue to mash. If the potatoes are too thick, add more milk 1 Tbsp. at a time until the consistency of mashed potatoes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
Mushrooms and assembly
- In another large skillet, melt 1/2 Tbsp. butter over medium low heat.
- Once the butter has melted and some of the foam has subsided, add the mushrooms. Toss to coat with butter.
- Spread the mushrooms across the bottom of the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir and continue to cook until the mushrooms start to release their juices and turn brown. Be careful not to overcook. You don’t want the mushrooms dry.
- Spread mushrooms across the top of the meat mixture.
- Spread the feta cheese across the top of the mushrooms.
- Scoop the mashed potatoes in large scoops across the top of the feta. Gently spread the potatoes evenly across the surface of the dish.
- Using a fork, create little peaks throughout the potatoes. The tips of these peaks will brown during cooking.
- Bake 350°F for 20 minutes, then place under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes until tips are brown.
As you can see, there are several steps to this recipe. However, as I mentioned before, if you are a multitasker, then this recipe can be cooked up and assembled in less than 45 minutes. If you bake it immediately after assembling, the bake time is only 15 to 20 minutes – just long enough to heat through. However, you can always assemble it, then wait to bake. If you do that, then add another 15 minutes to the bake time.
If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven big enough, you can use a casserole dish.
The chorizo – Mexican chorizo is perfect with this dish – spicy, and flavorful. If you don’t have any or don’t want to make your own chorizo, just use pork sausage or even turkey sausage. If you do this, then you might want to increase the amount of chile to make it spicy enough.
The red chile sauce – If you don’t have red chile sauce, you could substitute with 1/2 cup spicy salsa or use 2 tsp. red chile powder (chile with an “e”), ¼ tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. oregano, and 1/2 cup water.
The mushrooms – You could use a variety of mushrooms. I used button mushrooms, but you could easily substitute cremini, baby bellas, or shiitake. Just be sure to not overcook the mushrooms. They should be lightly brown and juicy.
To shorten the stovetop cooking time – add the mushrooms to the meat mixture after cooking the meat for about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the mushrooms start to release their liquids, then add the red chile sauce.
The cheese – One night we made this and didn’t have any feta, so I used 1 cup of a sharp cheddar. It was delicious. So don’t be afraid to try out a different cheese or to use a cheese you already have in your refrigerator.
The potatoes – The market had a 5 pound bag of organic Russet potatoes for $3 the other day, so that’s what I used. They worked great, but any type of potato would work – including mashed sweet potato.
Because I use organic potatoes, I don’t peel them. There are a lot of nutrients in the peel that I’d rather have in my body than in the compost pile. So I just scrub the potatoes, cut and cook.
Cooking the potatoes – There are three ways to cook the potatoes: boil them, microwave them, or bake them. I chose to boil them this time, but most of the time I microwave them. Baking would add time to the overall process, so I wouldn’t recommend that. You’ll be baking them anyway once the dish is assembled.
Variations – In Canada Paté Chinois (aka Shepherd’s Pie) is a quick and easy ground (minced) beef dish. Andy showed us one that she made with a layer of creamed corn. It looked delicious. The beef can be replaced with lamb or a variety of vegetables could be added to meat. There are also fish versions and vegetarian versions. Based on all of the variations that I found, it’s clear that this is a comfort food that can be adjusted to what you have on hand and what you like to eat.
Have you ever made a Shepherd’s Pie or Paté Chinois? If no, then it’s high time you did!