When I think of shepherds pie, this is EXACTLY how I imagine it should taste. It's meaty and has just enough gravy. Being a potato lover, I went slightly overboard with the mashed potato topping... although, really, is there such thing as too much mashed potatoes? It's hearty comfort in a pie dish, the kind of meal that makes a man go back for seconds, thirds, and probably fourths, depending on how much you scooped out each time. And IF there are leftovers, it reheats wonderfully to make a perfect Monday night leftovers dinner :-)
adapted from allrecipes
1 lb ground beef (I used 80/20, but I'd go up to but no more than 90/10)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 C chopped baby carrots (cut them into thirds, so they're about 1/2")
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 dried rosemary, then crush between your fingers
2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 C reduced sodium beef broth
3 Tbsp tomato puree (because I had some leftover, better than having to open a new can of paste)
1 C frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 yukon gold potatoes, peeled
4-5 tbsp butter, cubed
1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
handful or two of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Special equipment: 9" pie or tart dish, and optionally an ice cream scoop
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then start the potatoes because you can make the meat filling while you're waiting for the taters to come to a boil and cook: Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into even quarters. Put in a large pot or stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook about 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.
Heat a large pan (10"-12" and deep enough to fit the meat filling) over medium heat, and add the meat. Break up with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle a light layer of salt. (You may want to spoon off some of the fat that releases. Or not!) Add in onion and carrots and cook, stirring regularly, until meat is brown and onions are just starting to turn brown. Stir in frozen peas.
Stir in the flour, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Evenly combine broth and tomato puree in a bowl, then pour into the meat mixture. Add a little bit more salt and a few grinds of pepper and stir. (Don't add too much salt and pepper yet because the gravy will reduce, concentrating the flavors.) Simmer, reducing the liquid until you get to the gravy consistency you want (mine took about 15-20 min). Taste and season with more salt/pepper to your liking.
Let's not forget about the taters! While the meat is simmering, keep an eye on the potatoes. Drain them after they are fork tender, then return to the pot. Mash lightly, then add in butter, milk, and cream. Mash and whip until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the meat filling into the pie dish. Use the ice cream scoop to plop out an even layer of the potatoes over the meat. (You don't have to use a scoop - it's just a fast way to create a layer that'll be easy to spread evenly.) Spread out the potatoes to create an even layer, or get all artsy and make a design or something. Sprinkle with cheese. Put onto a baking sheet (to catch anything that drips) and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. You can also add the step of turning on the broiler for a few minutes to get a browned crispy top... I plan to do that next time.