Thursday, January 10, 2019

Winter Comfort Food...Featuring Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie #comfortfood #winterfood #savetime

Chilly weather instantly makes me crave warm, comforting meals! I love making a big pot of soup...but sometimes I'm in the mood for a heaty casserole like shepherd's pie. What's not to like about a savory beef and veggie filling topped with creamy mashed potatoes? The problem? Traditional shepherd's pie can take an hour or two to make...not exactly practical for busy weeknight dinners. Today, I'm sharing  a streamlined version of shepherd's pie that has all the comfort you're craving...but is quick enough to whip up any night of the week! 

My Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie tastes like it's been cooking for hours, but it's ready in about 45 minutes -- most of which is hands-off time! My special surprise? A layer of melty cheese between the layers of mashed potato and beefy filling! To save time, I  use refrigerated, cooked mashed potatoes from the grocery store. as well as pre-chopped onions and celery. You can also use leftover mashed potatoes -- or even good-quality instant mashed potatoes. Since shepherd's pie reminds me a bit of a pot pie, I cooked this recipe in four individual 2-cup ramekins. You can also layer everything in a 2-quart casserole or 9x9 square baker instead.

Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie
a Weekend Gourmet Original 
Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped in bite-size pieces
  • 1.5 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbs. chopped parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • Topping: 3 cups mashed potatoes (leftover, instant, or refrigerated ready-to-use), Cajun seasoning, and parsley
Step 1: Add the olive oil to a large skillet on med-high heat. Add the ground beef, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt & pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat, until it begins to brown. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is browned and the veggies begin to soften -- about 5 minutes. Add the wine, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to medium and stir until the sauce evenly coats the meat and veggies.
Step 2: Add the corn and mushrooms to the meat mixture and stir well to combine. Sprinkle the flour on top of the mixture and stir well to evenly incorporate. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beef broth and stir well to completely combine all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes -- t his allows the carrots to fully cook. Remove lid and cook the mixture for 5 more minutes, to thicken and reduce.
Step 3:  Preheat oven to 375. Evenly divide the beef and veggie filling between four 2-cup ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese. Evenly spread 3/4 cup mashed potatoes over the cheddar on each ramekin. Use the tines of a fork to place crosshatches down, then across on the top of the potatoes -- this creates nooks and crannies that crisp and brown. Sprinkle the tops of each ramekin with Cajun seasoning and parsley.
Step 4: Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges. Carefully place each pie on a plate and let cool 5 minutes before serving. Be very careful when eating, as the filling can remain very hot for quite a while! This dish is a complete meal, but a green salad makes a nice pairing.
Sigh...eating this dish is like wrapping up in a soft, cozy blanket! It's comforting and bursting with flavors and textures. The beef and veggie filling has complex flavors thanks to the wine, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce used in the sauce. The mashed potatoes are creamy, with crispy edges...and the surprise layer of melted cheddar ties both tasty components together. I hope you'll give this fabulous shepherd's pie a try...and leave a comment letting me know what you think!

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