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Every year we celebrate St. Patrick's day. Not because we are Irish, in fact neither my husband nor I have one bit of Irish blood running through our veins, but we celebrate it simply because we like the food. We also like the beer, are fond of Irish butter and cheese and who can say no to some good Irish coffee? We also enjoy listening to U2 and are fans of The Cranberries. Most of all who can forget the years of reign by The Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley and his crew, as they were touring the world (even though it is quite debatable if being able to move your legs like this is completely natural). See, with all of this said, we could "almost" pass as Irish. Hence, we are not, but we can at least pretend once a year. Our typical meal for this holiday does include Corned Beef and Colcannon, however our kids are not the biggest fans of this dinner, so in order to keep the peace, I decided to smooth things over with another Irish specialty beforehand.
Shepherd's pie refers to an Irish meat pie made with minced beef (ground beef) and with a crust made from mashed potatoes. I've been tinkering with a few different recipes for this dish for years and while the end results were tasty, I was convinced they could be improved upon. While I was searching for yet another version to try, I found this recipe on Foodnetwork.com. It is a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian who starred in The Next Food Network Star. In all honesty, while she was competing on the show I wasn't a big fan of hers, and I don't think I've ever watched her show, but she definitely hit a home-run with this recipe. This Shepherd's Pie is the real deal. It is full of flavor and utterly delicious. A great filling and an even better topping make this truly a stand-out. Bacon, onions and ground beef are cooked along with carrots and peas in a flavorful gravy composed of Guinness Beer, beef broth and spices. The topping receives extra love from 10 garlic cloves, sour cream, more beef broth and cheese which will assure that every bite of this will make for a wonderful dining experience.
This Shepherd's pie, in my opinion, is as good as it gets and is my new go-to recipe. My kids loved this meal and so did the adults. It is comforting and perfect for a chilly day. Yes, this will take you a little bit longer than opening a jar of gravy and mixing it with ground beef and frozen veggies, before topping it with boxed mashed potatoes as many recipes I've seen suggest, but sometimes good things require extra love and time to turn into something truly spectacular. So, keep in mind that if corned beef might not be your first choice for St. Patrick's Day, this recipe is a fantastic alternative, especially when served with a nice glass of cold Guinness. Cheers, or as they say in Ireland; slÃ¡inte!
(adapted from "Melissa d'Arabian")
For the Garlicky Potato Topping:
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into eights
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 to 2/3 cup beef broth
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Filling:
4 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 93 % lean)
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bottle of Guinness Beer
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
For the Garlicky Potato Topping: In a large saucepan add the potatoes and garlic and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large bowl. Add the sour cream, 1/3 cup of the broth, butter, salt and pepper, and mash until everything is smooth and the ingredients are incorporated. If the mixture is too dry, add the remaining 1/3 cup broth. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
For the Filling: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and almost crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate; set aside.
Add the oil to the drippings in the skillet and put over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar, and cook, stirring, occasionally, until the onions begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until the beef begins to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots, peas, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the beer, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked bacon, the broth, rosemary, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and the pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 10 - 15 minutes.
Spoon the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread the potato topping evenly over the beef mixture. Bake until the filling is hot, the topping is lightly browned and the edges are bubbly, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes. Let rest out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.