This dish was a standby when I was growing up; in fact, I think this was the first dinner I ever learned to cook completely by myself. It’s mild– OK, bland– and comforting, and easy to make. Pittsburgh meat-and-potatoes comfort food at its finest– and, added bonus, gluten free. (And no, this version does not involve actual shepherds.)
Shepherd’s Pie, Cheswick style
2-3 cups mashed potatoes
1 lb ground beef
I’m listing ingredients as a formality– this is a free-form dish, to be customized according to your tastes.
First, make mashed potatoes. (If you don’t know how, there are abbreviated instructions here.) It’s best, if you have time, to let them sit for an hour or two so they’re a little more solid. As a kid I used to use the kind from a box. It still works if you’re low on time.
Next, brown some ground beef in a skillet. You can season this however you like. Once it’s cooked, drain off the fat and layer the meat in the bottom of a pie plate (ceramic is best).
Then comes your middle layer. I prefer to slice cheddar cheese and layer it on top of the meat. Cover this with a layer of mashed potatoes, making sure not to leave any holes. Put a few pats of butter on top and bake in a 350-degree oven until the peaks of the potatoes start to brown.
Here are a few potential customizations:
- Cook the meat with chopped onions, a bit of cinnamon and pine nuts. Omit the middle layer, but sprinkle the top of the potatoes with feta cheese.
- Replace the cheddar cheese with stewed vegetables– green beans and carrots are popular with this.
- Add bacon. Sure, it’s a heart attack on a plate, but what doesn’t taste better with bacon in it?
- Replace the meat with slightly seared chunks of cod, a bit of heavy cream, and some black pepper, and omit the cheese. This one’s really good.
But you all are creative, I’m sure you’ll come up with some good variations. By the way, the leftovers are great heated up for lunch the next day.