Too often shepherd's pie is a soupy, flavorless gruel with a mushy topping. Here's the secret to creating a full-flavored, firm-topped shepherd's pie.
Why This Recipe Works
Shepherd’s pie, a meaty beef or lamb, carrot, and pea filling topped with rich mashed potatoes, can be pub grub at its very best, though it rarely is. Too often, it is a soupy, flavorless gruel with a mushy topping. For a full-flavored, firm-topped shepherd’s pie, we thoroughly browned the beef and softened the vegetables in butter for the richest flavor. Adding a little cream to the beef helped to keep it tender as it simmered. We thickened the filling with flour, briefly cooking the flour with the meat, vegetables, and tomato paste to remove its starchy flavor. We jazzed up the filling’s flavor with soy sauce, tomato paste, and beer. The soy sauce lent depth and color; its distinctive flavor disappeared behind the other ingredients. Finally, we made the mashed potatoes for the topping extra stiff and very rich for the best texture and flavor. Adding an egg ensured that they turned stiff and firm once baked. Sealing the potatoes firmly to the edge of the baking dish prevented the filling from bubbling out.