Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sheppard's Pie With Cheesy Potatoes

I love not having to throw things together in the evening for dinner. Having something in the fridge or freezer that is ready to just be placed into a preheated oven just seems like heaven to me.

So, I came up with this version of Sheppard's Pie with a cheesy potato topping. My husband absolutely loves it and it is perfect for those nights when you really don't feel like cooking. Make it 1-2 days ahead and then just pop it from the fridge to the oven to the table. The beauty of this recipe is that it serves 8, which means that you could split it and have two dinners for 4 ready with the same amount of effort.

Start by taking 10 medium sized potatoes (or 5 large russet potatoes),

peeled and cut into halves so that the pieces are relatively all the same size.

Place the potatoes into a pot filled with 8 cups cold water. Then crank the heat on the stove up to high to get things boiling. When the pot is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and allow the potatoes to cook a total of approximately 20 minutes. Check the tenderness of the potatoes. If they are not easily pierced by a fork, then allow them to cook an additional 5 minutes, or until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, I take 3 pounds of lean ground beef and place it in the largest skillet I have. Again, turn the heat up to high to start rendering off the fat. Then add a bit of black pepper to get things going flavor-wise.

As the meat simmers, my multi-tasking abilities get put to use and I peel & cut the carrots.

Try to grab the ones that are about the same size, then cut them into 1/4" rounds.

I like to keep the carrots as close to the same size as possible, so the larger pieces get sliced in half. Tip: If you like to avoid the peeling process, pick-up a bag of the pre-peeled baby carrots the next time you're at the store.

Check on the meat and give it a good stir. The more fat that is rendered off now the better. I don't want it to be dry, so there will be some left in the pan, but trust me, you don't want to have a cup of beef fat in this dish. *Bleh!*

Take the time to stir the meat around the skillet occasionally. Pink meat is not wanted here, we want everything to be nice and browned.

Alright, after about 15 minutes go ahead and start spooning out the rendered fat into a heat resistant cup or bowl. Be sure to leave a little in the pan so that the meat isn't too dry.

Time to add in my onion soup mix. I used to make this dish with fresh onions, but then discovered that the onion soup mix brings out a much richer flavor in the meat.

Now I add in my carrots, a couple cans of diced tomatoes (not drained), and a bag of frozen corn. Stir it around, getting everything well mixed together.

Although this is really starting to look good, not to mention smell extremely appetizing, there still needs to be a little bit more simmer time, about 15 minutes.

And just to kick it up a notch I like to throw in 3 tablespoons of Cabernet Sauvignon. This gives the dish such a great flavor...very much like the sauce for Salisbury Steak.

Oh, I almost forgot to add one more ingredient! Sea salt, just a touch (well, 1/2 teaspoon) to help bring out more flavor.

While the meat continues to simmer, I take the potatoes and drain them. Then pour them into my mixing bowl. Time to put my mixing paddle to work. I set the speed on 2 and pour in the whole milk. This helps make these potatoes nice and creamy.

After the potatoes have been broken down a bit, I turn up the speed to a 6 and watch these steaming hot potatoes become light and fluffy.

Time for my hubby's favorite...colby cheese. I can't even begin to tell you just how amazing this makes the potatoes. 

Add a bit of sea salt and butter. Then the topper...finely shredded colby jack cheese! Oh yeah, we have some seriously cheesy potatoes happening here.

Back to the meat...take it off of the stove and start spooning it into a large 5 quart baking dish. I smooth it out so that everything is nice and level.

Now to spoon on the potatoes. Same thing with the potatoes...smoothing them out to make it level and equal for all parties who will be enjoying this dish later.

Now this is optional, but why on earth would you deny yourself the extra touch of cheesy goodness?

I like to top off the sheppard's pie with another 1/2 cup of shredded colby jack cheese. Then just cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the fridge until it's time to get it in the oven.

A few hours later....I preheat the oven to 375°F and start off with the dish covered for the first 15 minutes.

Then remove the foil for the remainder of the cook time (15-30 minutes depending on oven) so that the cheese gets melted and browned and the center is nice and hot. (If baking right after assembling the dish, then bake for 15-20 minutes uncovered until the top is toasted golden brown.)

Onto a waiting plate and we are ready to ENJOY!

Ahhh...this is comfort food at it's finest.

And then it's gone.

Sheppard's Pie With Cheesy Potatoes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes if served immediately, 30-40 minutes if refrigerated prior to baking
Servings: 8


Potato Topping:
10 Medium Russet Potatoes (or 5 large russet potatoes)
1 cup Whole Milk
1 1/2 cups Colby Jack Cheese, finely shredded (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Butter

Meat Filling:
3 lbs. Lean Ground Beef
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, ground
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
4 Large Carrots, sliced
1/4" thick rounds
1 packet Onion Soup Mix
2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) Diced Tomatoes (do not drain)
16 oz. bag of Frozen Corn
3 Tbsp. Cabernet Sauvignon


Peel & halve potatoes so that they are all the same size. Place in a pot of 8 cups of cold water.

Over high heat, bring potatoes to a boil. When the pot is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and allow the potatoes to cook a total of approximately 20 minutes.

Check the tenderness of the potatoes. If they are not easily pierced by a fork, then allow them to cook an additional 5 minutes, or until tender.

Drain & pour into a large mixing bowl. Beat on low speed and add milk.

Once potatoes have been broken-down, beat at medium high speed until light and fluffy.

Add cheese, salt & butter. Beat until well incorporated.

Set aside.

Meat Filling:
In a large skillet simmer ground beef over high heat to start rendering the fat. Add black pepper & sea salt. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 15 minutes.

Add onion soup mix, carrots, diced tomatoes and corn. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add Cabernet Sauvignon. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large 5 quart baking dish, spoon in meat filling. Smooth until level.

Add potatoes on top, smoothing to level off.

Top with additional 1/2 cup of colby jack cheese. (optional)

If serving immediately: Place in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes uncovered. Dish is done baking when cheese & potato topping is golden brown.

If serving later: Cover with aluminum foil. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, covered. Uncover for the remaining 15-30 minutes, depending on oven. Dish is done when the cheese & potato topping is melted and browned and the center is nice and hot.

Serve immediately and ENJOY!

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