Cucina Valentina

Cucina Valentina

Friday, November 18, 2016

Shepherd's Pie

Can you believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am still without my oven?  The long awaited igniter arrived last Friday and it was the wrong one!  I'm beginning to think that holidays, ovens and I, do not mix.  

Last Christmas, as a houseful of family and friends milled around nibbling on appetizers, I happened to mention to Ian that the turkey seemed to be taking too long to cook.

You already know that my husband is a self-proclaimed McGyver.  What you don't know is that his brother is not far behind.  No sooner had the words slipped out of my mouth than those two were in the kitchen, poking and prodding at my aging oven, trying to determine the cause.

Was the temperature gauge malfunctioning?  Was the door gasket not sealing properly?  How about this lever - what does this do?  And, with that, my brother-in-law locked down the oven door with the self-cleaning lever, trapping my turkey inside as the temperature skyrocketed up to 600+ degrees.

As you can imagine, pandemonium then ensued - the three of us panicking as we tried every which way to unlock the oven - to no avail.  Finally the Einstein of the group wrestled the oven away from the wall and unplugged it.  It took the better part of an hour to cool down enough for the self-cleaning lock to release and - Voila!  Problem solved.  The turkey was done, albeit a little extra crispy.

The temperatures were supposed to cool this past weekend, so I'd bought everything necessary to make my husband's favorite traditional dish, shepherd's Pie.  The plan was to light the season's first fire and settle in for a movie with one of the oldest comfort foods known to man.  

Oven or not, I decided to forge ahead and make this Shepherd's Pie.  A barbecue should suffice, right?  We shall see...

As I previously mentioned, Ian is from Scotland, and anyone who knows a Scotsman well knows that they are set in their ways.  God forbid he walks by the kitchen and sees me chopping celery, mushrooms or garlic for the Shepherd's Pie.

"Meat, carrots and peas - nothing else is in Shepherd's Pie!" he'll declare, then later, as he's scarfing it down, he'll grudgingly admit, "It's pretty good."

Shepherd's Pie is traditionally made with lamb, but a 50/50 blend of turkey and beef works just as well.

 Adding tomato paste, Worcestershire and beef base give it a rich, depth of flavor.

 So into the barbecue this Shepherd's Pie went, and who knew?  It worked perfectly.

Shepherd's Pie is a hearty dish that pairs well with a rich, dark Zinfandel, in this case, Tobin James Silver Reserve.  Its robust, full bodied fruity notes compliment a meaty dish perfectly.


Shepherd's Pie


1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey or pork
1 onion or 3 shallots
2 carrots
2 celery
1 C mushrooms
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 C peas
Sage infused olive oil
1 T Rosemary
1 TSage
1 T Thyme
2 T flour
3/4 C Red wine
1/4 C Sherry
1/4 C Beef broth
2 T Tomato paste
1 T Beef base
2 T Worcestershire
salt and pepper to taste



Over medium high heat, brown meat in sage infused oil, breaking into small pieces.  Drain fat.  Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, mushroom and garlic.  Saute until starting to soften.  Sprinkle with flour and cook several minutes.  De glaze with red wine and sherry and cook until mostly evaporated.  Add tomato paste, Worcestershire, herbs and beef base.  Stir until combined.  Add peas last.  Cook until nice and thick.

Pour into casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes, spreading potatoes to edges of casserole to seal in the meat mixture.  Sprinkle top with cheese and paprika if desired.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and edges are bubbling.  Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Mashed Potatoes



3 potatoes
3 T butter
1/2 C grated Guyere cheese
1/2 C Greek Yogurt
Rosemary sprig
Salt and Pepper



Cut peeled potatoes into 1" cubes.  Place in a pot of salted water with a sprig of rosemary and bring to a gentle boil.  Boil until potatoes are fork tender.  Remove rosemary sprig and drain potatoes.  Return to pot, adding butter and cheese.  Mash with Greek yogurt and milk to achieve desired consistency.  Add scallions and salt and pepper to taste.