Shepherd’s pie was originally a Scottish dish made with ground lamb, but I prefer the beef version. Although it can be made with leftover roast beef, it never has the same body or taste. When you’re chopping the vegetables, try to make them all the same size (about 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice) for even cooking and attractive appearance. Although the ingredient list looks long, this is a simple dish to make – and flavourful.
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1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped fennel
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped rutabaga or turnip
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tsp tomato paste
11/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, fennel, carrots and rutabaga and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add beef, garlic, cayenne and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes or until meat loses its pinkness. Add bay leaf and stir in flour.
Add stock, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Taste for seasoning.
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and place on the turned-off burner to dry off. Mash with butter and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Spoon beef into a medium-sized baking dish. Top with potato mixture and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and topping is crisp.
Suggested Wine Pairings
Comfort is the cue here, and that means just about any hearty red wine you love, because most would suit the shepherd’s pie admirably. Top choices include gutsy Côtes du Rhône and fuller-bodied merlot or cabernet sauvignon. If you’re on a tight budget to keep you off the post-holiday-spending fiscal cliff, try Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a steal at often less than $10. - Beppi Crosariol