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Much like rest of the United States and parts of the world, our family has been quarantined due to the COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic.  Schools have been closed since mid-March and my husband has been working from home for the past several weeks.  We are fortunate to not only be employed during this time, but also to be able to still get most of the groceries we need for our family of five.  Two months later, we still struggle finding essentials like hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, alcohol, and the like.  What we have we make last as best we can, and of course we are taking the necessary precautions when we must go out for groceries and other essentials.

Being fortunate enough to find meat, potatoes, and vegetables has allowed me to get back to cooking.  When we first started the stay-at-home order, one of things I wanted to make was Shepherd’s Pie.  I have no idea why.  For some reason it popped in my head, it sounded good, and I was determined!  For the most part I knew what it was – ground meat, vegetables, and mashed potatoes on top.  But what seasonings would really make it spectacular?  I trolled around the internet looking at various recipes.  They were pretty much the same basic ingredients and seasonings.  One item, however, that I was surprised was in it was tomato paste.  But it was frequently a listed ingredient in a number of Shepherd’s Pie recipes I found so I made sure to add it.  I didn’t follow a particular recipe.  I just used a variety of some as references.

We usually stick with ground turkey or ground chicken in lieu of ground beef in our household.  I used ground turkey for this recipe and it still turned out terrific.  I sauteed up some onion, celery, and carrots.  I learned in culinary school this is called “mirepoix” (meer-e-pwaa).  It is a combination of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% carrots.  To this I added the ground turkey and cooked it through.  For seasoning, I used my base of salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  I also added some Paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and of course, tomato paste.  You can buy them in tubes that keep a long time in your fridge so you don’t have to worry about opening a can of paste and not being able to use it all.  When I found those in the grocery store it was a game changer!  I love these tubes of tomato paste!  They are so easy to use and they store practically forever!!!

The last ingredient I added was frozen peas.  The heat from the mixture heated them through   The flavor was delicious.  I loved the depth and richness of the flavor.  The Worcestershire sauce gave it an incredible savoriness, the tomato paste helped thicken it up while also enriching the flavor, and the various vegetables and ground meat provided a variety of textures.  One thing to note is if you find the mixture is TOO thick, add a bit of stock.  I used chicken stock since I chose poultry to use as my base, but beef stock would give better flavor if you used ground beef.  You could use water, but you would likely dilute the flavor of your dish.

This mixture is then put into a baking dish (I just used a disposable tin for easy clean up), and topped off with mashed potatoes.  Here’s where you can get creative.  I made basic mashed potatoes with salt, pepper, butter and milk, but you can top off your Shepherd’s Pie with a different style of potato if you prefer.  You could make a garlic mashed potato or even a cheesy mashed potato.  Anyway you choose – it will be a great topper to your base!

So here’s my take on Shepherd’s Pie.  It may not be Gordon Ramsay’s or Alton Brown’s recipe, but it was damn good and our family devoured it!  Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and…. Happy Cooking!

Shepherd’s Pie

For the base:

1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef if you prefer)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 small bag frozen peas
1/2 cup of stock (chicken or beef), (more or less if needed for consistency)
Few dashes Worcestershire Sauce (maybe about 1 Tbsp.)
1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika

For the topping:

4-5 russet potatoes, washed, peeled, diced, and cooked through
1/2 to 1 stick of butter
1/2 to 1 cup of milk as needed to achieve desired consistency
Salt, Pepper to taste

Mash cooked potatoes adding butter and milk to achieve desired consistency.  They should not be runny.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.

  1. Prepare potatoes as directed above.  Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, saute’ the onions and garlic together about 3-4 minutes.  Add the celery and carrots and allow to cook about 4-5 minutes.  Add ground turkey and cook until cooked through.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Worcestershire Sauce, and tomato paste.  Mix well.
  5. Add stock (adding more or less to achieve desired thickness.  It should be a little thick (closer to a stew, not thin like a soup).  Something in between is fine!
  6. When the meat base is cooked through, taste the mixture.  Adjust seasoning as desired.
  7. Pour mixture into a baking dish (I use a disposable tin).  Top with mashed potatoes.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until potatoes are heated through and they start to get brown on top.

You can also make this dish ahead!  I have prepped it in advance and kept it refrigerated until dinner the next evening.  If you have done this, take out the pan about 30 minutes prior to baking to bring to room temperature.  Bake at 350 degrees F covered for 1 hour.  You want to ensure that the mixture is heated through the inside completely.  Check the mixture by placing a regular metal knife into the center and feeling it with your lips.  If the metal on the knife is hot, it is ready – if not, continue cooking until heated through.  Cook about 15 minutes uncovered allowing the potatoes to brown a little bit.