I’m currently pining for winter. Alas, it’s currently 80°F outside, and the sun is shining its pretty little head off. Don’t get me wrong – it’s beautiful, but I long for scarves, sweaters, and hot meals that fill you before a night of cozying up with a mountain of blankets and a good book or movie. Living on the west coast we had mild winters, but I know both my husband and I have been looking forward to a the time when we could get back to the bitter cold of the midwest. Now that we’re here I feel like winter is millions of miles away – hurry up!
But I can always try to trick myself into believing winter is upon us by cranking the AC and serving up a hearty winter dish that I know will make its way back around when the season really does come back around. (No, I don’t actually abuse my air conditioner like that – but wouldn’t it be nice?)
I made this shepherd’s pie as individual servings because I have a soft spot in my heart for tiny food, but you could easily throw everything in one casserole dish and serve it up at the table.
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder (you could use real onions and garlic, but I was feeling lazy)
1 roast gravy seasoning packet (it’s near the other gravy packets & taco seasoning – such a good find)
1 can (8 oz) corn
1-2 carrots, diced
1 can (15 oz) cut green beans
2 c water
6 small-medium potatoes
1/4 sour cream
2 Tbsp cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter
1/2-1 tsp garlic
1/2-1 tsp onion powder
1/2-1 tsp red seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s on just about everything)
1/4-1/2 c parmesan cheese
Comfort food should be relatively simple, and that’s what I tried to put together here. The truth is I’ve been sick for about a week, and the thought of prolonged standing in the kitchen endlessly chopping vegetables just does not appeal to me. There’s value in those canned veggies on your grocer’s shelf, so take advantage of them!
Start by browning your meat in a very large, very hot pan. Season with salt, garlic, and onion – I have to admit that I put down those ingredient measurements, but I rarely measure at this point. Usually I just take a pinch or this, or slightly more of that depending on how everything smells. If you like Lawry’s seasoning (a major staple in my kitchen) you could throw some of that in too. Really – it’s up to you, but just watch how much you add because you don’t want to over season it.
Once everything is browned and drained, stir in the seasoning packet of roast gravy. I did this on a whim. The one thing I find lacking from most shepherd’s pies is a good gravy with the meat and veg. I spotted the packet gravies in the aisle with the canned vegetables and thought to myself, “Why not?” Luckily everything came out much better than expected, and I will definitely do this again. Right, packet stirred in to meat – let it cook for just a few minutes before adding your water. Once the water is in the pan add your vegetables and give it a good stir. Cover everything with a lid, and take the heat down to low so you pan can simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you have the time you can let it go longer (probably an hour), but if you don’t remember that everything gets more time in the oven so don’t worry about it.
For the mashed potatoes I have a go to recipe. Every time I make mashed potatoes I think to myself, “Someday my kids are going to love these.” I don’t know why that’s my first thought, but hey – it is. Peel and chop the potatoes into about 1-inch size pieces. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Over medium heat bring potatoes to a boil and let them get tender – about 20-30 minutes. Drain off all the water and get them into a bowl big enough to mash them up. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, butter, and seasonings. You could mash these by hand, but I like to try and get them as smooth as possible by using my electric mixer. It’s messy as potato bits often go flying onto myself or other parts of the kitchen, but worth it.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Now that both components of you shepherd’s pie are ready you can either layer them into one big casserole dish, or whatever the serving dish of your choosing is. I like to ladle a few scoops of my beef/veg/gravy mixture into my largest ramekins (yes the same ones I use for creme brûlée), and then top with a hefty scoop of mashed potatoes. After everything is portioned out sprinkle on the parmesan and stick everything into your oven for about 30 minutes. You should get a little browning on the top, and that’s what you’re looking for.Yes, that is definitely what I was looking for.
These reheat really well too – that’s part of the reason I portion them out individually ahead of time. Since it’s just my husband and I most nights I like to be able to pull out single servings instead of reheating a whole casserole dish worth of food just to eat a small helping. But you can worry about that later. For now, just enjoy the comforting-comfortableness that is this delicious dinner!