Shepherd’s Pie “CupCakes”
Happy April Fool’s Day? Yeah, I’ve been reduced to using any type of “holiday” as an excuse to bake. The rest of the blogging world seemed to be making desserts look like dinner creations for the joke (but who really wants to eat a cupcake that looks like a pile of peas and carrots?!) so I figured I’d do the opposite, make my dinner a little cuter and hope it would convince the kids to eat more.
I don’t know how well it worked on my kids but my husband, sister and I couldn’t get enough of these! I used my standard shepherd’s pie recipe and just baked it in pie crust shells with mashed potatoes as the “frosting”. They would have been cuter if I’d been able to find my large star tip to pipe the potatoes but my 19 month old likes to play hide and seek with mommy’s kitchen utensils :)
I’m going to save the pie crust recipe for it’s own post because it is the most incredible, flakey, buttery crust you will ever need. It deserves it’s own post. This shepherds pie though is delicious and can be baked with or without pie crust. I use fresh herbs and just a splash of red wine to give it an earthy and slightly more grown-up taste to the rather simple ground meat and vegetable casserole that it is.
Yields approx 20 mini pies or 1 large pie
Pie Crust, enough for 2-9 inch pie crusts, more if you like your dough thick
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (plus cream, butter, salt, pepper and ground garlic to taste for mashed potatoes)
1 pound ground beef or lamb
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/3 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels*
1/3 cup fresh or frozen cut green beans*
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup beef or vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine**
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Roll out pie crust of your choosing and using a 4 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough in circles and form to fit the molds of a cupcake pan. (see picture) Prick dough with a fork and bake until very lightly browned and puffed. The time will vary based on your pie crust recipe so follow the instructions you have. If your dough seems a little soft or warm before you bake it then stick it in the fridge until it is very cold and solid.
2. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees (F).
Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain then put the potatoes back in the pot and mash them with a fork or potato masher adding 1/2 cup of cream (or milk or water) with a few tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper, and ground garlic to taste. Beat with a wooden spoon until fluffy, set aside.
3. In a large, deep skillet, cook ground beef or lamb for about 5-10 minutes or until browned. Spoon off excess fat and remove meat to a platter.
4. Wipe down the skillet and add the vegetable oil and set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, corn and green beans. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add the ground meat back to the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes or so until meat is cooked through and hot.
5. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock and wine (if using), thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then fill the baked pie shells. Spoon (or pipe) mashed potatoes on top. Scatter the cut butter over the top of the potatoes and bake until browned, 20-30 minutes. (This can also be baked all together in a 9 inch pie plate with potatoes on top, just add 5 minutes to baking time.) Let cool slightly before removing mini pies from the pan with a spoon. Serve immediately.
*If you are using frozen corn and green beans, let the onion, celery and carrot cook for a few minutes before adding the corn and beans.
**If you don’t want to use wine you can replace all the liquid with stock.