Make Ahead

Scrummy Shepherd's Pie

January 27, 2015
5 Ratings
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

Everyone knows that the reason for making Shepherd’s Pie is to eat more mashed potatoes. And rightly so! Here’s my improved version, inspired by a scrummy (scrumptious + yummy) holiday beef stew that Mary Berry makes. (She adds lots of mushrooms, horseradish, and mustard – 3 real winners for a meal like this.) I up the ante with crisp bacon, added right at the end, and (shhhh!) chopped anchovies. I highly recommend using a ricer for the potatoes and lightly pile them on top of the mixture in their just-shredded form. I drizzle a fair bit of cream over the potatoes, and sprinkle them well with salt to avoid stirring them at all. Tip: Start your potatoes before you do any of your other prep for this one. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

I think of shepherd's pie as a tasty application of leftovers -- but the incorporation of still-crunchy vegetables and freshly mashed potatoes made this pie truly worthy of the moderate level of production involved. Mushrooms and anchovies provide depth, the horseradish and mustard give it a little bite, and bacon makes everything better, of course! —chezjewels

What You'll Need
  • 1 3/4 pounds russet potatoes (3 somewhat large ones)
  • 4 ounces bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef, no leaner than 10% fat
  • 2 teaspoons chopped anchovies
  • 8 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, chopped (about 2 cups when chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (you could use all purpose by making a slurry with it using 1/4 cup water and then adding to the beef stock)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 5 small carrots, diced (no need to peel)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (or a heaping tablespoon fresh, chopped leaves)
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram (or a heaping tablespoon fresh, chopped leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup beef stock or a rich chicken stock (Homemade is best, but you knew that.)
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard (or other coarse mustard)
  • 2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or melted butter -- applying the inverse principle to Julia Child’s famous, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”)
  1. Scrub but don’t peel the potatoes. Cut in half crosswise and cover with an inch of cold water in a roomy pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until knife tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain (but save the cooking water and all the starch in it for baking bread!).
  2. When the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, slip the peels off with your fingers. Put the cooked potatoes through a ricer, letting them pile up in a large bowl. (Or use a conventional masher if you must, but do it gently and just use it to make fat threads of potato.) Don’t stir them.
  3. In a heavy pot over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
  4. Saute the chopped onions until barely soft in the pan with the bacon fat. Add a chunk of beef about the size of a large egg and break it up gently with the end of your cooking spoon. Add the anchovies and stir well. Continue to cook over medium heat until the meat is barely pink.
  5. Add the mushrooms, and cook over medium high heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rest of the meat, and break it up gently into pieces the size of large marbles.
  6. Sprinkle the Wondra flour over everything, along with a big pinch of salt, and stir well to coat.
  7. Add the celery, carrots, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and stir well. Then, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, mustard, and horseradish. Make sure all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, bring up a boil, and then turn the heat down a bit. Let the stew simmer briskly for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 425° F. Butter the upper edges of a large baking dish (9- or 10-cup capacity). Remember, the greater the surface area, the crispier the potato on top will be!
  9. Stir the parsley into the beef stew. Check for salt and correct if necessary. Grind black pepper generously, or to taste.
  10. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved crispy bacon. Gently plop about half of the potatoes all over the top. Sprinkle with salt, and then drizzle on half of the cream. Cover with the remaining potatoes, and drizzle with the remaining cream.
  11. Bake on the top rack of your oven for 20 minutes. There should be crisp little brown bits of potatoes on top, with the stew bubbling up around the edges. Pop very briefly under the broiler for more color, if you wish.
  12. Remove carefully, and serve with a smile. Enjoy! ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Chef Lisa
    Chef Lisa
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • AntoniaJames
  • K

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

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5 Reviews

K October 21, 2021
This was marvelous - very flavourful and balanced. I ended up using sweet potatoes when I ran out of russets but otherwise adhered to this wonderful recipe. The sweet potatoes worked quite well.
AntoniaJames October 21, 2021
Thank you, K! I'm so glad you like it. I'm intrigued by the sweet potato variation. I will try that next time. ;o)
Chef L. February 12, 2015
AJ, I also tested this dish and was a bit sad that I had to limit may rave review to 100 words! My now go to comfort food!
LeBec F. February 5, 2015
This looks terrific, aj! and i love it that you are using the horseradish and seeded mustard to spike up the flavor ; that's so smart when you are playing off alot of mild mashed potatoes.
AntoniaJames February 5, 2015
Thank you, LBF. My thinking exactly. I really like the mashed potatoes to be light in texture, which can't be achieved if you add all the fat-heavy dairy ingredients typically used to make them more interesting. Putting a ton of flavor in the sauce makes all the difference in the world. And horseradish of course is the perfect partner for beef. ;o)