Happy New Year! And Also, Shepherd’s Pie

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all had a fulfilling and exciting NYE.

At age 29, this year was my first year to ever fall asleep before midnight. I dozed off on the couch not long after finishing The Mandalorian. My husband woke up me at 11:58pm so we could watch the ball drop together and kiss at midnight. Love that man.

In fact, I love him so much that I made him his favorite meal, Shepherd’s Pie as our “celebration” this NYE. Since our plan was to stay home and watch Star Wars-related things all night, I decided I would make a homey, comforting meal to accompany our relaxing night. It turned out to be one of the best times I’ve ever had on New Years. Good food with my favorite person in the world, sneaking some stew under the table to our puppy. All in our first home. What could be better?

There are definitely some tweaks that I would make to this recipe before making it again, so I will be sharing those blunders with you so at home, you all can avoid making the same mistakes.

You’ll need [for the stew];

1.5 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into one-inch cubes

1 large shallot, sliced

1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

For the potato topping;

5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes

6 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

freshly ground, cracked pepper

Begin with browning the meat. Salt and pepper liberally on the cutting board, assuming you cut your own meat. If not, just season right in the packaging. Toss the meat to coat in spices.

Turn on a large pan to high heat. Make sure you use a pan that you have a lid for, since we will be braising this stew. Cook your meat in about three batches, to ensure that we are browning and not steaming. Crowding the pan too much will not allow your meat to brown deeply and properly. Leave on each side for about 1 minute per side, taking out the browned meat and transferring onto a plate. Repeat until all meat is deeply browned and there are brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Reduce heat to medium. Add your shallot and mushrooms and brown until the mushrooms have given off liquid and are browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside on a separate plate from the meat. [This was my first mess up, I left the mushrooms in the entire cooking process with the meat. While it was delicious, I believe the mushrooms lost their integrity a little bit. They were cooked a little too long, in my opinion.]

Turn down the heat to low and allow pan to cool slightly. Add your wine and broth and stir together, using a wooden spoon to scrape up those browned bits from the bottom of the pan. That is where all the flavor lives and you absolutely want that integrated into your sauce.

Add the meat back in, leaving the mushrooms out for now. Bring to a low simmer and cook meat for 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fall-apart tender. [This was my second mess-up. I pulled the meat at 3 hours because I was impatient. It shredded, but not at easily as I would have liked. The second cook in the oven is not long enough to ensure fall-apart texture, so make sure the meat is to your desired consistency before attempting the second stage.]

At about 3 hours in, add your mushrooms and shallots into the sauce. Stir to combine. At the same time, put a large boiling pot filled with salted water off to the side of a cutting board.

Peel and cube your potatoes and place them in the salted water. Bring to the stove and boil on high heat for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft. Drain thoroughly and lay out on a baking sheet to allow steam to escape.

In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add potatoes and butter and beat until whipped and smooth. Lower the speed and add your heavy cream, onion powder and garlic powder. Whip. Taste and add salt as necessary. Add black pepper and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie tray with foil and set aside. Grab your favorite baking or pie dish and layer your stew in the bottom of the dish. Layer your whipped potatoes on top of the stew and spread to an even layer with a spatula. Take a regular table fork and draw straight lines on top to create an aesthetically pleasing pattern. All these textured bits are going to get browned and delicious in the oven. Place baking pan on foil-lined cookie sheet. [This was another mess-up. I did not place my baking pan on a cookie sheet initially and set off the fire alarm from pan stew bubbling over. Please put a cookie sheet under your shepherd’s pie.]

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top. In the last 5 minutes, be sure to turn on your broiler and brown until golden.

Serve with your favorite side salad and enjoy with your favorite people.