Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie (green beads not included)

I guess I could try to tie this into St. Patrick’s Day (which, as we know, has become an extended weekend celebration versus a one day observance.)

The honest truth is:

  • I fell upon this recipe weeks ago, and made it for a different kind of cultural/kind of religious extravaganza – The Oscars.
  • For some, this might be the highest form of shepherd’s pie sacrilege.
  • I didn’t wear a drop of green, or beads, or other leprechaun leisurewear yesterday. I did eat pistachio gelato and I’m counting that as compliance.
  • This meal should be a year-round indulgence. Even if you staunchly associate meat & potatoes with March 17 or winter’s “No one’s seeing me in a bikini for another 6 months” mentality.
  • This does probably absorb green beer, vodka/Red Bulls and whiskey incredibly well.


Not to be confused with shepherd’s pies you’ve had at semi-authentic Irish pubs (that often tout things like “Irish nachos” on the appetizer list), this is not obscenely salty or swimming in gravy or dotted with small cooked carrot cubes that you have to eat around.

That said, it is rich and creamy and the best application of wilted spinach you’ll ever find (because nothing, just nothing, can compare to a cold spinach dip.)

Despite that this recipe was sourced from The New York Times, there are no bougie techniques or appliances required. Only a cast-iron skillet and a dream…and a slight time investment.

What this process lacks in # of pots and pans it makes up for in steps. Not to worry; with every exercise in kitchen patience, we atone for the occasional frozen pizza sin. And, let’s be real, now that you don’t have to spend all day Sunday theorizing about The Yellow King’s true identity, you have some time on your hands.

Beef & Au Gratin Potato Pie
Makes 4-6 servings; Adapted from The New York Times

4 garlic cloves
1 c heavy cream
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra on hand)
1 lb ground beef
3/4 tsp salt and pepper
1 c onion, sliced thin
3 packed cups of baby spinach
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lb russet potatoes
1 c Gruyere, shredded

Act I: Infusing the Cream
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1/2 tbsp sage. Bring this to a simmer and let reduce to 1/2 cup, around 30 minutes.

Act II: Le Boeuf
While the cream is reducing/cooling, heat the olive oil in your skillet over medium-high heat. Have a plate covered in a couple of paper towels waiting nearby.

Start with only half of the beef, letting it brown and crumbling with a fork as you go. Let this get super brown, forming a nice crust. Season with pepper and 1/4 tsp salt, then move this batch to the paper towel plate. Repeat with the second half of meat.

Act III: Veg Out
Add the sliced onions to the skillet (right in with the oil you cooked the beef in), and let caramelize for 10 minutes. Drop in the second 2 garlic cloves (chopped) and remainder of the sage. Bring the meat back to the party.IMGP4756

Next, add the spinach a handful at a time, letting each bunch wilt down before adding more. Add 1/4 tsp salt, the Worcestershire and more pepper.

Act IV: The Pièce de Résistance
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Rinse, peel and slice your potatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Layer half of the slices all around/on top of the meat. Season with salt, pepper and half of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layering process with the rest of the potatoes; season again with S&P and the rest of the cheese. Evenly drizzle the infused cream all across the top. Drool.

Act V: Get Baked
Wrap the skillet in foil and bake for 1 hour to 75 minutes (enough time so the potatoes can steam all the way through.) After an hour or so, nix the foil and let the top get golden for another 10 minutes. Let cool before serving (even if it pains you.)


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