Shepherd's pie. Such a bucolic name, as if of some forgotten nursery rhyme. Such a more romantic winter use of ground beef than plain old hamburgers or, for that matter, meat loaf. Such promise. Little Bo Beep and all that. What kid wouldn’t love this?
My kids. What gives? Are their palates shutting down? Am I a lousy cook? Have I lost my mojo? I swear I did everything to make this as delicious as possible: I cooked a full 4 ounces of pancetta to give it that porky foundation. I mixed 2 cups of cheese into the mashed yukon top. I seasoned it at every turn. I cooked it until it was all browned and bubbly. And it was rejected by both Des and Vi!
You’ll probably like this. But my kids hated it.
The trick to this dish (as with many) is pushing the caramelization on the mirepoix (fancy name for onion, carrots, and celery) and salting it enough at the start. The frozen peas are completely unecessary but nothing says British-ish cooking better than pallid peas. It’s a homey old school touch.
half a white onion, finely diced
1 piece celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 pound ground beef
4 ounces pancetta
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
pinch red pepper flakes
6 or so biggish yukon gold potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
boil the potatoes until tender, cut up, and mash with a little milk, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of grated cheese (cheddar, quattro formaggio, or parmesan) and fresh herb like thyme or rosemary
heat olive oil on high heat, sautee beef , breaking up, season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes until browned, set aside in bowl
sautee onion, celery, carrot, garlic, with salt and pepper until caramelized.
add butter and flour and sauutee until cooked through (that’s a roux)
return beef to pan, stir
add quarter cup beef stock, which should thicken as it comes to a boil (that’s the magic of the roux)
add the wine and continue simmering until it reduces and thickens up a bit
pour the mixture into oven proof dish
spoon mashed potatoes over, and bake in 400 degree oven until heated through and top begins to brown, about 20 minutes.