Other than the veggies, the best thing about Shepherd’s Pie is that it covers lots of bases with one entree. Fluffy, golden-brown whipped potatoes, with Cheddar cheese stirred in, top the layer of meat (I subbed beef with ground turkey), carrots, celery, onion, and tomato paste. Only thing that would have made it a little better is if I had remembered to add the salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to the potatoes before I baked it. Oh, well, Son-in-Law is accustomed to having to pour salt from his shaker on anything he ingests when he dines at our place, since we’ve sworn off salt since long before he was part of our family.
One the highlights of his birthday lunch is that it marked the first time that Grandmunchkin was grown-up enough to sit at his highchair at the dining table while the rest of the family observed a proper meal. A bottle for him while the rest of the guests dined on Cheddar-Topped Shepherd’s Pie, but he’ll be spooning some out of his baby dish before too many more luncheons go by.
Cheddar-Topped Shepherd’s Pie
2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste
2 pounds ground-beef chuck (or ground turkey)
1 cup skim milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover by 1 inch with water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until meat no longer is pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set filling aside. Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until all liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season potato topping with salt and pepper. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; use a spatula to spread to edges. Using a fork make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes. (If topping and filling were chilled, increase cooking time to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.