I never thought twice (even once?) about shepherd’s pie until I became deli manager at Just Food Co-op and realized that I needed some more options for the hot bar menu. For those of you who have never worked in food prep, steam tables (what keeps a hot bar hot) are hard task-mistresses. Pasta is never good in a hot bar; not only does it sit and overcook for hours but cleaning it will have you cursing every god you can think of and their future progeny. Casseroles, stir frys, and baked items of any sort from any cuisine imaginable, are a hot bar’s best friend. Shepherd’s pie was a natural.
Ask any British person and they will tell you that shepherd’s pie is made with seasoned lamb, topped with mashed potatoes, and only sometimes cheese. Supposedly it originates from its namesake; a one pot meal for shepherds to take up the mountain with their flock. It was a way to use up leftovers from roast leg of lamb and include some vegetables as well.
Of course, dishes change as they migrate to new places and in Northfield, Minnesota, it was definitely made with hamburger meat, a bag of mixed frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, green beans) and ketchup. Diligently I stuck to the defined version for the place and it sold in minutes!
Not being a fan of ketchup and not always wanting meat as part of my main dish, I came up with this mushroom version – four different mushrooms sauteed with some sherry and topped with luscious mashed potatoes – a delicious twist on this classic.
Any assortment of mushrooms will work; I happened to have some dried porcini and shiitake in the pantry that I wanted to use up, so into the frying pan they went. Certainly portabello or oyster or chanterelle mushrooms would work as well.
Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
4 fist size red potatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons 1/2 and 1/2
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 lb white mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup dried pocini mushrooms
1/2 cup mushroom stock (from soaked dehydrated mushrooms or water)
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup cheese (swiss, Jarlsberg, Cheddar, your choice) shredded
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook potatoes until very tender. Drain and mash, adding butter, half and half, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Boil 2 cups of water and pour over dehydrated mushrooms (if using) and soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of soaking liquid and chop mushrooms.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large skillet, heat olive oil and saute onion over medium high heat until softened. Turn heat down to medium and cook another 5-8 minutes until onion begins to color light brown and caramelize. Add fresh mushrooms and cook 10 minutes until they have given off their liquid and begin to dry. Add chopped rehydrated mushrooms and 1/2 cup of reserved soaking liquid and cook another 5-8 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add salt and sherry and cook another 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Taste for salt and pepper.
In 9 x 9″ baking pan spread mushrooms evenly; top with mashed potatoes and grated cheese, if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browned. Allow to rest 5 minutes and serve.
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