Ok, so “best ever” is a pretty big claim to make, but I feel pretty secure in making the statement.
As an Irish Canadian, I’ve eaten my fair share of Shepherd’s (Cottage, to be more accurate) Pie. As a chef, I’ve tinkered with the recipe many, many times. I’ve done a “Thanksgiving Leftovers” version. I’ve made a cottage pie with moose meat, partridgeberries, and wine. Boeuf bourguignon hybrid pie, cottage pie with caribou meat… yeah, you could call me a connoisseur!
So, when I say that this is the best ever – know that there’s a lot of experience behind the claim!
First, a quick distinction: The vast majority of what people call “Shepherd’s Pie” is actually “Cottage Pie”. Cottage pie that uses lamb for the meat is “shepherd’s pie”. Sheep, shepherd… you know. This recipe was developed to be a shepherd’s pie, but was changed to a cottage pie at the last minute. After a morning of shopping for ingredients, I chose convenience over nomenclature
Anyway, that little bit of pedantry aside…
I created this cottage pie for our recent “St Pi-trick’s Day” party. As every food had to be Irish themed and round, I sized this recipe around a 12″ round cake pan, big enough to serve our party. Should you want to be a bit more traditional with it, and make it up in two 9 x 13″ pans.
In keeping with the Irish theme, I didn’t make this “American Style” – you’ll notice there is no creamed corn, and no cheese. Instead of the more common choices of corn and frozen peas, I decided to go more “Irish Canadian” with it, using carrots, parsnips, and turnips – a very popular set of veggies on the East Coast of Canada, which is heavily Irish. For many/most people out that way, those root vegetables are served at least weekly, as part of “Sunday Dinner” – very traditional. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, getting these veggies ready will be a snap. If you have to grate them by hand – trust me, it’s worth the effort in the end!
As an additional nod to the Irish-Canadianness of it, you’ll notice the use of savory. Savoury, as we spell it back home, is an extremely popular herb in east coast Canadian kitchens… for good reason. The savoury that grows in the hills of Newfoundland is the best savory I’ve ever had. It’s commonly used in soups, on poultry, in stuffing/dressing, on pork… yum. If you’re a foodie and have a chance to get your hands on some Mt. Scio brand savoury… send me some, too!
While shepherd’s pie really isn’t anything elegant to look at, no matter what the ingredients, this one has an elegant taste to it. The use of the root vegetables in combination with these seasonings provides an awesome merge of flavors… truly, I think I’ve come up with the ideal cottage pie here!
Cottage Pie Recipe / Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
4 lbs russet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground pork
1 lb lean ground beef (Substitute ground lamb for true “Shepherd’s Pie”)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 parsnips, peeled and grated
1 small turnip, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced, finely grated, or pressed
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
½ tsp savory
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 – 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Peel potatoes if you have to (I don’t!), chop into 2″ chunks. Boil in a large pot of water until tender.
While potatoes are boiling, combine oil, ground pork, ground beef, grated veggies, and garlic in a large pan. Cook on medium high heat, stirring and breaking up meat chunks frequently.
Once meat is cooked through and veggies are tender, whisk together chicken broth and corn starch until smooth. Pour over meat and veg mixture, season with pepper, salt, rosemary, savory, and parsley. Stir until well combined and broth mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat.
Once potatoes are tender, drain and transfer to a large bowl – I like to use my stand mixer. Mash/whip for 30 seconds or so, until potatoes have broken down a bit. Add butter, chicken broth, and sour cream, continue to beat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler to high.
Transfer meat mixture to pan(s) – I used a 12″ round cake pan, 2″ tall. (Two 9 x 13″ pans would also work!) Spread potato mixture evenly over the meat mixture, broil until potatoes are as browned as you would like them.
Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.