Shepherd’s Pie that is really Cottage Pie

imageThere it is in all it's glory.

So I found out from Wikipedia that Shepherd’s Pie is only called Shepherd’s Pie when it is made with mutton or lamb. I had to google what mutton was, and that is any meat that comes from a sheep. However, not just any sheep. Lamb is a young sheep, under 1 year old that does not have any permanent incisor teeth. A hogget is a sheep that is male or female with no more than 2 permanent incisors. A mutton is a female sheep (ewe) OR a castrated male sheep (wether) having more than two permanent incisors. And all this time I thought there was just lamb.

Anyway, I love shepherd’s pie, but I don’t love it with lamb. I prefer lamb in the form of a chop with a nice Cabernet reduction poured all over it. I always make my Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef, but I learned something today. Although the name has been used interchangeably, when Shepherd’s Pie is made with meat other than lamb or mutton, it is actually called Cottage Pie.

Apparently around 1791, the potato was being introduced as an edible crop that was affordable for poor folks. This meal was a way to use leftover roasted meat- a pie dish was lined with mashed potato filled with meat, and topped again with mashed potato. It got the name Cottage Pie because poor people typically lived in cottages, and well, because they baked it like a pie.

It wasn’t until 1877 that Shepherd’s Pie began to appear in cookbooks, this time with lamb or mutton, because shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cows.

So now I know that it is actually Cottage Pie, unless I make it with lamb or mutton. Which I won’t, ever, so there it is. But I haven’t quite come to terms with the name Cottage Pie, so for today we are going to just call it Shepherd’s Pie, but know that it is really Cottage Pie. Also, I am adding bacon, so that just throws everything off.

Before you freak out if you are coming here for Paleo recipes and you see that there are mashed potatoes, first, what Robb has to say here about potatoes, and second read  this post from The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate, and third, keep reading…

Because The Hubs and The Kiddo love mashed potatoes, I decided to make half mashed potatoes half sweet potatoes. Please note, I typically use the names yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably. I rarely call anything a yam and call everything a sweet potato. However, I always have both in the kitchen. Sometimes I like cooking with the ‘orange’ one sometimes the ‘yellowish white’ one. Today I chose the white one since it closely resembles a potato when mashed. If you are looking for Paleo recipes and didn’t like what Robb Wolf, or the Primal Palate had to say about potatoes, simply don’t use them. The great thing about this recipe is I made it half and half- you can choose which half fits your eating, and if both halves have a place in your kitchen and in your tummy, then you get to taste two different versions of delicious. But either way this is definitely a gluten free Shepherd’s Pie!

What you will need:

  • 7 pieces of bacon (I used 1 package of Trader Joe’s Apple-wood smoked bacon)
  • 1 large carrot or 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 large celery stick or 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 leek, dark green part removed (only use the white and light green part when chopping)
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 6 yukon gold potatos
  • 1.5 #’s of ground beef
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Unsalted seat cream butter or grassfed butter (optional)
  • garlic salt with parsley, 4-6 fresh chives, heavy whipping cream (optional for mashed potatoes)
  • sea salt and ground pepper

If you decide to use mashed potatoes that’s great, I will include my mashed potato recipe. If you choose to eliminate mashed potatoes then increase to 3 large sweet potatoes.

I am very lazy when it comes to peeling potatoes. So I don’t do it. Instead, I cut the sweet potatoes in half and pop them in the pressure cooker, on high pressure, for 13 minutes.

When they are finished, the skin is a bit loose and easy to peel off. If you are burning the tips of your fingers off, you can also use a fork to loosen and unravel the skin.

At the same time as the sweat potatoes are cooking in the pressure cooker, I boil the Yukon gold potatoes. Those too I easily peel after. *note, if your potato skins aren’t quite loose after boiling, which they should be, you can run them under cold water for a few seconds and this will help loosen them up.

So much better than using the f’ing potato peeler for 107 minutes before hand, right??

For the sweet potatoes, you can add 2 tablespoons of grassfed or unsalted sweet cream butter, but this is optional if you don’t include butter in your cooking. I think it is delicious when melted in a sweet potato! Once you have peeled them all, get out your hand mixer and whip them up! I don’t do any mashing beforehand, you can, but it is not needed. After coming out of the pressure cooker they are nice and soft and can be mashed easily with the hand mixer.

You want to whip them for 1-3 minutes or until creamy.

Set those aside and move on to the mashers (if you aren’t including mashers, skip this step). Add 3 tablespoons of butter, about 1/3 cup (a little more is ok) of heavy whipping cream, 3-4 shakes of your garlic salt with parsley, a pinch or two of pepper, and 4-6 diced chives.

And whip up with your handy hand mixer…

…until deliciously creamy.

Set both the mashers aside.

In 1 pan, brown your ground beef. Do not add any seasoning because we will be adding other flavors later, and the saltiness you get from the bacon will be flavorful. I always say, peeps eating your food can always season more after the food is finished, but will not eat it if it tastes like a salt lick. Just brown, do not complete the cooking of the ground beef.

Set that aside, and warm a pan on medium heat. Dice up your bacon…

… and put it in the pan. Yes my knife is pink. Don’t be jealous. It is also very, very sharp. Cook the bacon until it is just shy of the perfect doneness for your tastes where you want to just stick your hand in the pan, burning oil or not, and grab a delicious handful. I say just shy because it will get a few more minutes of cooking in a minute, and I hate burnt or overly crispy bacon.

Scoop it out and set it aside on some paper towels.

Save a tablespoon or two of bacon grease in your pan.

While your bacon is cooking, or after it is finished if you are not savy at kitchen multi-tasking, you want to dice up your carrot, celery, and leek. Or if you are lazy, and had already bought the already chopped carrots and celery from Whole Foods, then measure out about a cup of each, and add a couple more chops to it. We don’t want it super chunky.

With your left-over bacon grease on warm, add and saute your chopped up 3 garlic cloves for about 1 minute.

Then add your carrots, celery, and leeks along with a couple cranks on the pepper mill and 2 pinches of sea salt. Let that cook for about 7 minutes, until your veggies are soft. Around this time you should also preheat your oven to 385.

Mix in the ground beef…

…and then add 1 small can of tomato paste. Be patient mixing this in. It can be a major butt and want to clump to one part of the meat. Just keep folding the meat and veggie mixture in to the center where the tomato paste is and it will eventually blend well!

Once the tomato paste is all mixed in keep stirring for about 2 minutes so the tomato paste has time to brown and melt in to the fixins. Then add about a cup of chicken stock. This should be enough to coat all of the fixins. If you need extra that is ok, but don’t completely drown the meat. If you are unsure, and totally freaking out right now regarding what is enough, just use a cup.

Mix in your bacon chunks, then add your single bay leaf and your sprigs of thyme (just place right on top). Once that comes to a boil, turn your heat down to simmer and let cook for 2 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf and transfer the fixins into your favorite baking pan.

Top half with the mashed potatoes and half with the mashed sweet potatoes.

Put it in the oven! Because everything is pre-cooked, and you just took your meat off the stove, you only need to oven-it until the potatoes are warm. Approximately 10-15 minutes or until the top of your potatoes look like they are forming a bit of a crisp!

Cut it and serve piping hot! Here is a picture of mine, with sweet potato mashers:

This meal takes roughly an hour to prepare. In my opinion the left-overs taste even more amazing than when it was for dinner because after being left to sit in all of it’s own juices all night, the flavors are just enriched. Unfortunately I never have the patience to prepare it the day before I am going to cook it.  But I do make a huge batch so I can eat it for breaky or lunch the next couple of days.