Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve always been a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day.  Chalk it up to green being my favorite color since the beginning of time (hello emerald birthstone), my bright orange hair, and seriously Irish last name.  Then there was the actual living in Dublin for study abroad and then summer internship.  I’d like to say I’ve gotten familiar with the cuisine–and the St. Patrick’s celebrations that go on there versus here (hint:  we Americans like an excuse to throw a big party).

Though a great deal of people think first of Corned Beef and Cabbage when it comes to traditional Irish food (which you’d be hard-pressed t0 actually find in Ireland these days), I’d like to introduce  you to one of our true favorites–Shepherd’s Pie.  This is an awesome end-of-winter comfort food and a g0-to for myself and W when we are feeling the need to use up extra ground beef.  Truly, we eat it all the time and it’s always special.  Perhaps because our version showcases a few of W’s favorite ingredients–in a pie (okay not a true pie, but still).

Though our version wouldn’t exactly be in the way of the traditional form (not a big fan of eating lamb here), and we like to stir in lots of extra vegetables, I’d have to say we truly enjoy this version better than those you’d find in a standard Irish pub.  Serve it up with some nice Irish Cider–or Guinness, if that’s your style.  Sláinte!

Shepherd’s Pie
For the Topping:
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped, (about 1 large potato)
3 oz. parsnips (about 1 large), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt or any type of milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Filling:
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp. dried thyme
rounded 1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 heaping Tbs. potato or arrowroot starch
1 cup frozen peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Make the topping:  Bring potatoes and parsnip to a boil in a medium pot, covered with water.  Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of potato liquid. Mash the potatoes and parsnips and stir in the yogurt or milk along with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper.
  • Make the filling: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms, stirring until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef. Cook, breaking up any large pieces, for about 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 tsp. salt, the thyme, chili powder, and then season with pepper.
  • Whisk together the potato starch separately in a small amount of cold water. Then stir it along with the reserved potato liquid into the beef and veg mixture. Boil for about a minute and then stir in the peas.
  • Transfer the filling to a 2-quart baking dish and top with the mashed potatoes and parsnips.  Bake until bubbling and the top is beginning to brown; about 35 minutes.