Skillet Shepherd’s Pie

You may have noticed a couple of happenings on my site this last week. Mainly a huge hiccup in the menu bar… that’s what I get for pretending that I actually know what I’m doing. I tried to reorganize the structure of my drop down menu under Recipes and well, all hell broke lose. I’d make 5 changes in WordPress and only one would show up and everything else would be deleted. I’d go back and redo my changes, save, and then error codes. FAIL. I’d try again and then the whole menu bar would disappear. EPIC fail. I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole debacle. Luckily for me I was able to rope my blog designer, Myla (from Design Me Pretty), to help me out- Thanks Myla! You rock! It took almost two days between me and her fiddling with it but she finally discovered that it was my WP search plugin causing the problems. All I had to do was deactivate it to make changes. Strange, huh? All those problems just because of one silly little plugin. Ugh, it’s times like these that I wish I knew a thing or two about computer design, codes, and all that…

Things are running fairly smooth now though! (For the moment at least.) I also rearranged some items on my sidebar. I am attempting to de-clutter my ads. Not sure that’s working, but it’s a work in progress. I’ve been feeling quite motivated lately. The feeling comes and goes every few months. Maybe it has something to do with the sun finally remembering where Germany is…

Speaking of sun and summertime, now that things are starting to heat up this is really my last chance to get this recipe out. I really don’t want to hold onto it until next Fall/Winter. I hate holding out on you. Plus I am aiming to improve my photographs so I don’t want my old photographs to be mixed in with my new photograph posts, ya know?

So disclaimer- Shepherd’s Pie in May… crazy! Haha I am well aware of this. You will just have to save it to a pin board for next season because this recipe is a keeper and like I said earlier, I’m not holding on to recipes anymore. Getting all the old stuff out there to make way for all the new stuff!

Isn’t this Shepherd’s Pie pretty though? It makes quite an impression. My parents were visiting this past month which gave me a chance to break out of the boring stuff I make routinely for my Husband and cook up something for in the kitchen! My parents will eat anything so it was the perfect time to experiment. Last time I shared a shepherd’s pie recipe with you, I mentioned that my family used to make Shepherd’s Pie layered plainly with a can of corn, lightly seasoned ground beef, and simple mashed potatoes. There was no gravy or sauce to it at all. It begged for ketchup. When I made this type of Shepherd’s Pie for them I think I kind of blew their mind a little. Not only was it unlike anything they had ever had, but it was so super delicious to boot!

This is a Cooks Illustrated recipe so the instructions are a little tedious. They have you do a couple out-of-the-ordinary things. They’re techniques to improve the dish like marinating the ground beef in salt, pepper, water, and baking soda. Whaaaaaaat? I know, it sounds weird, but it’s all part of a ploy to make the beef more tender and flavorful. It does in fact work, so kudos CI! You really just got to go with the flow and trust them. They know what they’re doing.


  • 1½ lbs 93% lean ground beef
  • 2 Tb plus 2 tsp water
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 Tb unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 8 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 Tb tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tb Madeira or ruby port
  • 2 Tb all purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups beef broth
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp cornstarch


Toss beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and baking soda in bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in medium saucepan; add water to just cover and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft and tip of paring knife inserted into potato meets no resistance, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture on potatoes has evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and mash potatoes well. Stir in melted butter. Whisk together milk and egg yolk in small bowl, then stir into potatoes. Stir in scallion greens and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.

Heat oil in broiler-safe 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, mushrooms, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just starting to soften and dark bits form on bottom of skillet, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic; cook until bottom of skillet is dark brown, about 2 minutes. Add Madeira and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add broth, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaf, and carrots; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, add beef in 2-inch chunks to broth, and bring to gentle simmer. Cover and cook until beef is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and breaking up meat chunks with 2 forks halfway through. Stir cornstarch and remaining 2 tsp water together in bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place mashed potatoes in large zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner to create 1-inch opening. Pipe potatoes in even layer over filling, making sure to cover entire surface. Smooth potatoes with back of spoon, then use tines of fork to make ridges in surface. Place skillet on rimmed baking sheet and broil until potatoes are golden brown and crusty and filling is bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

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