The Best Shepherd’s Pie in A Cast Iron Skillet
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Shepherd’s Pie is an English dish that traditionally consists of mashed potatoes mixed with ground lamb. After the potatoes and lamb have been cooked together, the Shepherd’s Pie can be topped off with cheese. Shepherd’s pie can be served alone or accompanied by vegetables such as broccoli or peas. Shepherd’s Pie is a great meal that is easy to make for dinner!
Shepherd’s Pie Origin
Rumor has it that Shepherd’s Pie was created in the 1800s when meat was scarce and potatoes were very abundant. Shepherd’s pie is also referred to as cottage pie, which includes beef instead of lamb, or steak-and-kidney pie, which consists of a mixture of meats including beef kidneys. Shepherd’s Pie contains mashed potatoes, ground lamb (or other meat), and cheese on top it. Shepherd’s pies are usually baked in an oven.
Basically, it was created like all truly amazing dishes – when there was a need to get creative with limited supplies in the kitchen. We have always had ways to fill the belly and stretch the meat budget!
Shepherd’s pies were traditionally served at home but now they can be found as pub food or restaurant dishes. Shepherd’s Pie is a very easy dish to make, and Shepherd’s prefer it that way. Shepherd’s Pie is related to Shepherd’s Crockpot and the Shepherd’s Grinder sandwiches, and fortunately, Shepherd’s Pie does not contain any Shepherds!
This basically just shows how popular this Shepherd’s Pie is. Shepherd’s Pie can be eaten all by itself or with buttery biscuits on the side. Shepherd’s pies are easy to make and they always turn out great! Shepherd’s Pies have many different types of ingredients including ground lamb, potatoes, cheese, and whatever vegetables you have handy…it is kind of like my family’s Depression Casserole.
Why do we use ground beef instead of ground lamb?
Cost. Lamb is pretty common in the UK, but here? Not so much. We are in the land of cattle so ground beef is a huge bargain for us. We can easily find it for under $3 a pound, on sale.
Shepherd’s Pie Casserole
I chose Shepherd Pie because I thought it was an interesting name and there is a funny story behind it. My mom was helping me whip up a dinner for a surprise birthday party for my hubs and dropped the frozen peas on the floor. He came home early and as we were hiding everything we had just set out – he was joking about “Who pea’d on the floor”.
25 years later – that story still comes up – and my hubby still thinks he is hilarious. (snort)
Shepherd’s Pie in a Cast Iron Skillet
Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with ground lamb. However, this version, also known as a “Cottage Pie,” is prepared with ground beef instead. We stretch the meat budget a little further by adding a few vegetables to the dish before we top it with the potatoes. While we make the mashed potatoes from scratch, you can save a step or two and use Instant Mashed potatoes if you want. I just like to substitute some of the water and milk mix for sour cream. It helps to make a richer layer of flavor above what you would normally get out of a boxed mix.
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
This recipe will take you about 30 minutes to prepare and roughly another 45 minutes to bake. It can easily serve 4-6 people, more when you add a nice salad and some warm buttery rolls.
Now if you don’t have a good cast iron skillet, we love this 10.25” cast iron skillet from Lodge Cast Iron. I know it doesn’t have a long handle, the two side grips make this a gem for getting in and out of the oven for any kind of casserole.
Shepherd’s Pie Mashed Potato Topping Ingredients:
2 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4-5 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Water, to cover
½ c. chicken stock, preferably organic
¼ c. heavy cream
3 T. unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Place potatoes and garlic in a large pot and add water until the potatoes are completely covered, with an additional inch or two on top. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
Add chicken stock, heavy cream, and butter to the boiled potatoes. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and mash with a hand masher or whip with a hand mixer until smooth. If necessary, add a little extra chicken broth to reach the desired consistency. Set aside.
Shepherd’s Pie Filling Ingredients:
1½ lbs. ground beef
2 t. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
¾ c. frozen corn kernels, thawed
¾ c. frozen peas, thawed
1¼ c. sliced frozen carrots, thawed
Fresh chives, chopped
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, optional
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie:
Place the top oven rack in the center position and pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
While the potatoes are boiling, add the beef, rosemary, and Worcestershire sauce to a 10” cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently until the beef is completely browned and broken into small pieces, approximately 8-10 minutes.
Remove the skillet from heat and carefully drain any excess fat from the skillet, if necessary. Set aside.
Evenly spread the thawed corn, peas, and carrots across the browned ground beef in the cast iron skillet. Top with an even layer of the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with some smoked paprika.
Shepherd’s Pie Cook Time
Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through and the potatoes are nicely browned on top. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve immediately garnished with fresh chives. Enjoy!
Tip: For best results, use a plastic spatula to cut and serve this dish. If using metal, as shown, be careful not to nick the protective seasoning on your skillet while cutting.
What other dishes do you like to make with ground meat?
Check out some of our other fun ground beef recipes: