I recently spent a lovely Spring weekend at my friend Mary’s lake home on Madeline Island. I love going to Mary’s place – it is on Lake Superior and I always feel such a sense of calm when I am there. Maisie and I love to walk on the beach. This trip I felt an inexplicable urge to collect driftwood, so I suddenly have piles of driftwood at my home. I see driftwood crafting in my immediate future.
There was still ice on the lake and a nip in the air. Mary and I were in the mood for something hearty for dinner. A quick google search turned up Alton Brown’s Savory Shepherd’s Pie. While Alton didn’t use cast iron to make his dish, I knew that it would work wonderfully in my Iron Mountain (by Griswold) cast iron chicken pan. I have always been a casserole kind of girl.
I made some modifications to Alton’s original recipe – including using ground beef instead of ground lamb – to accommodate what we had on hand on the island. The recipe below reflects how we prepared the dish. It was quite delicious, but I have no doubt that Alton’s is even tastier. You can find Alton Brown’s original recipe here.
Shepherd’s Pie ala Alton Brown Style
Serves 8 – more or less depending on how hungry you are!
For the potatoes:
For the meat filling:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place a splash of your preferred oil (we used canola) into a number 8 cast iron Dutch Oven or chicken pan. Set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and return to the pan.
Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, beef broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Add the corn and peas to the beef mixture and spread evenly in the bottom of the pan.
Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up. Smooth with a rubber spatula. Whisk the egg white and gently brush it atop the potatoes.
Place the uncovered pan on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Dig in and enjoy! Alton recommends Merlot to accompany the dish. I think any hearty red – Shiraz, Zinfandel – would be a great addition to the meal.