You must know by now that thyme holds the number one place in my herb heart. And thyme specifically does marvelous things to a fine roasted chicken, a beef and wine stew, and even the lowly shepherd's pie. The aromatic oils in thyme are released as the dish is simmered - one reason one adds thyme at the beginning of the recipe, rather than the end, as you would with basil.
When Fall rolls around, so, invaribly, does shepherd's pie season. You can use a mix of ground lamb and ground chuck , which has more flavor than ground sirloin, or just the ground chuck. I've been meaning to try ground turkey instead of meat - I think it would make a wonderful pie!
If you pinch off tablespoon sized chunks of meat and saute them in butter and oil for shepherd's pie, it gives a little texture, and more flavor, and it's certainly more appealing than a few inches of pebbly, grainy, cooked hamburger.
I made this for one small, three year old Fairy Princess on Halloween , just before she headed out to go Trick or Treating, hoping to avoid the dreaded candy meltdown, and happy to say it worked.
I tend to use red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, for the whipped potato topping - and lots of it, with a little butter drizzling on top. I'd say about 1/3 meat to 2/3rds potato. You can make one big shepherd's pie, or do individual servings.
To make about 4 servings:
5-6 good sized organic red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
1 pound of really good hamburger or hamburger and ground lamb, pinched into tablespoon sized pieces
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 t. or more thyme
salt and pepper
4 T. unsalted butter ( for the potatoes)
1 T. unsalted butter ( for the onion)
1 T. olive oil
about 1/3 cup milk
Heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet and add the chopped onion. Stir and cook on medium heat until the onion is golden. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
Add the hamburger or lamb to the same skillet, adding olive oil, the thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until meat is almost cooked through.
Mix the onion into the skillet with the meat, then scrape into a casserole dish.
Add the potatoes to a large pot of water , making sure you have about 3 inches of water covering the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Drain the potatoes and place in a mixer bowl, along with the milk and butter. Whip the potatoes until creamy and fluffy . (potatoes have to be whipped while still hot, or they won't be creamy)
Smooth the potatoes over the meat and onion mixture and place in a medium oven, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Serve hot, with a few small pieces of butter melting on top. Yum, yum!
Top photo credit J. Dawson