recipe: kicked-up shepherd’s pie

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My boyfriend’s piece d’resistance is his version of shepherd’s pie. Occasionally, a lucky gal like myself finds herself with a big, bubbly, hearty casserole dish full of fluffy mashed potatoes, perfectly browned with cheese, sitting atop a bed of saucy seasoned ground beef. His secret? A layer of corn relish, inspired by a batch of corn relish my mother made for us! The corn is crunchy and sweet, the relish is tart and tangy, together they add the perfect zip to a dish that might otherwise be considered somewhat plain. Sadly, despite our greatest efforts, we were unable to find corn relish in our city (I’ve long since given up on humanity so this was an easy fact to swallow), so we simply boiled up some corn kernels and mixed them together with relish, rather than going through the tedious task of making it ourselves (perhaps a nudge and a wink is in order for my mother!). Call it lazy, we call it genius. And now you can see for yourself.

2 lbs lean ground beef

1/2 white onion

6 garlic cloves

2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp beef stock concentrate

1/2 c water

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp brown rice flour

1 tsp seasoning salt

1 c corn kernels

1 small jar dill relish

2 Yukon gold potatoes

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp milk

salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 c shredded cheddar cheese

1. First, boil the corn kernels for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Next, cut the potatoes into sixths and cover with water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, begin fine-dicing the onions and mincing the garlic. In a large pan or pot, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the beef and seasoning salt and brown the meat, breaking it up as you go.

3. Once the potatoes have been drained, add the 1 tbsp butter, milk, and salt and pepper. Mash well with a potato masher, or put in a food processor using a whisk or paddle attachment, adding more milk if necessary for consistency’s sake. Combine the drained corn with the relish.

4. Preheat the oven to 425F. Once the meat is completely browned, drain the excess fat and whisk together the beef stock concentrate and the water. In a separate bowl, mix together the room temperature 3 tablespoons of butter with the brown rice flour; this is called a beurre manie and will thicken the sauce like a gravy while the butter adds flavor and body. Add the beef stock to the ground beef in the pan, then whisk in the beurre manie, whisking away any lumps until it’s well incorporated. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is nice and thick and no longer tastes of flour.

5. Now it’s time to assemble! Grab a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and spray it with cooking spray. Pour the beef mixture in first, then top with a layer of corn relish, then with the mashed potatoes, and finally sprinkled with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until filling is bubbling and cheese is browned on top.

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