Cooking On A Budget: Traditional Beef Shepherds Pie

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Traditional Beef Shepherds Pie


There is a photograph from Susen Kuchta who made this dish for her family and her comments at the bottom of this post. This is a testimonial of sorts about how good this dish is.

Whenever I make a roast beef dinner, a pot roasted beef or a turkey dinner there is always lots of gravy made. If I am not using it in the next few days, I'll freeze it in containers and pull it out when I need it. (Labeling the containers with the product name and date is very important.) Or like I did with the demi glace, I freeze it in cupcake tins or muffin tins then transfer the frozen discs to plastic freezer bags. That's just how I roll.
In as much as I have some pot roast gravy, tonight's dinner will be shepherds pie. It is a comfort food that is not only easy to prepare but it also doesn't break the food budget. I am astounded at the number of times I made this and never photographed or blog it.
What's great about these one dish casseroles is you have a complete meal and feed the family for not a lot of money. In fact because I had gravy available my total cost for the dinner was $6.89 and had enough for 6 or 8 good sized portions.
I have a friend who makes a vegetarian version of this. If I were to do it that way I would make a gravy from vegetable stock, layer in whatever vegetables I liked and top it off with the potatoes. A clever thing she will do is top it with frozen smiley fries or tater tots. (She has young children and a toddler.)

If you don't have gravy in the freezer or left over gravy in the refrigerator you can do one of two things:
A) Buy a brand off the shelf in the grocery store, or
B) Make a quick version yourself.

To make a beefy gravy from scratch without the actual beef roast:
  • 2 cans Campbells® Beef Broth
  • 1 carrot - cut in chunks**
  • 1 stalk of celery - cut in chunks**
  • 1 small onion - cut in chunks**
  • 1/2 tsp. Gravy Master®
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
  • drizzling of olive oil (regular)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. In a sauce pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add in the vegetable chunks and season with a little bit of salt and some black pepper and the granulated garlic. The salt will help to sweat the vegetables, but the broth sometimes can be salty, so watch the salt at the beginning.
  2. Sweat the vegetables for about 8-10 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in the beef broth and the gravy master and lid the pot. Simmer on low for about 40 minutes, longer if you have the time so that the vegetables do soften all the way. This will depend on how **large or small** your chunks are.
  4. Strain the broth and vegetables through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing down on the vegetables to get out all of the goodness.
  5. Transfer back to the pan and crank the heat up to high. While you wait for the liquid to come up to a boil, make a slurry with the corn starch and water, whisking well to incorporate.
  6. When the liquid has come up to a boil, slowly pour in the slurry whisking constantly until you achieve the desired thickness of gravy that you want. Remember you will never know how thick it will become until it comes to a boil and cooks for a bit.
  7. Taste for possible pepper or salt and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
There you have it, home made gravy without having a roast. This method is great for when you are making meatloaf. Because meatloaf can yield so much grease and not enough beef flavor to make gravy, try this recipe out.

Okay now that I've covered the gravy part, the Shepherds Pie part is easy. This is how I prepare mine and I bake it in a dish that is approximately 9 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches.
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 6 medium sized potatoes
  • 3/4  bag (1 lb. bag) frozen corn kernels
  • gravy
  • 2 tbsp. butter - melted
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • granulated garlic to taste
  • onion powder to taste
  • dried parsley or chives
  1. Peel and slice your potatoes and boil them in salted water and make mashed potatoes. I mashed mine but not as creamy and loose as we normally do them. Allow the potatoes to cool down a bit.
  2. Make sure you have your gravy handy - whether you just made it from the recipe above or left-over that has been warmed up. The gravy doesn't need to be hot when you go to assemble the pie.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  4. While that is happening heat a skillet over medium high heat and add in the ground beef, breaking it apart as you put it in the skillet. Season the ground beef with all of the dry spices (except the parsley or chives) and stir. Brown the beef until it just cooks and remove it from the heat.
  5. In your oven proof casserole dish lay in the ground beef mixture (drain the beef or use a slotted spoon to drain off the excess fat) evening across the bottom.
  6. Add the gravy on top of the beef so it covers all of the beef mixture.
  7. Then layer in about 3/4 bag of corn kernels evenly.
  8. Top with potatoes and smooth out, then using a fork, press and make some swirls or what ever design you prefer.
  9. Drizzle the butter over the top to help the potatoes brown and crisp up while in the oven. Sprinkle on a touch of dried parsley or chives over the potato for color and flavor.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes uncovered and in the last 10 minutes use the convection part of the oven to aid in getting a slightly crispy top. If you don't have a convention oven, use your broiler but keep a close eye on it.

 This was perhaps the best version of this I have made. My husband and I made a huge dent in this. He had three portions and I had two.

Here is Susen Kuchta's photograph:

And here is her testimonial on Google Plus:

"Ok +Patty Anderson I made your beef shepherds pie 2 nights ago and it was a homerun!  Hubby loved it, I loved it and my Mom loved it.  The kids well....they'll come around.  I wish I could post a pic here as it looked beautiful when it came out of the oven and tasted even better!  Thanks for always sharing such great recipes!  If you know how I can post a pic here lmk.  Maybe I'll try on fb!"
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