Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shepherd's Pie for Two and a Date with My Son

Until two years ago I was a working Mom.  I was a part-time Science teacher and my oldest son spent time in some wonderful home day cares and in the preschool right down the hall from my classroom.  It was the best of both worlds for me.  I got to spend time doing something I loved and then go home and play with my little guy on the afternoons I wasn't working.  We would go to the park, to the movies, the children's museum, or just play with his blocks building towers in our living room.

Then along came the second child.  I stopped working and became a full-time Mom with all that entails.  I love, love, love my boys and I love being their Mom just as much.  But I miss having that bit of time to myself that working allowed me.  I supposed that's part of why I started this blog.  But something else happened when I stopped working- that special time with my oldest son sort of faded away.  It's never just him and me anymore.
So last week when my husband was out of town for work, I decided to make a date with my son.  I fed the littlest one his favorite- a PB&J and sent him on his way to watch a movie.  Then his big brother and I sat down to dinner for two.  It was just the thing we needed.  We got to talk about school and how the first grade is going, his friends, his favorite toys (LEGOs of course!), and the things he wanted to do over the weekend.  It was so nice to spend that time with him minus any distractions.  And as I got a big hug and kiss after the dishes had been cleared from the table, I knew that my son appreciated the one on one time with his Mom.

I promise to make the time just for us again, little man.   Your Mama loves you very much.
Shepherd's Pie for Two
Serves two, but you can easily double the recipe and bake it in a baking dish to serve a family.  You'll need to increase the baking time to 40-45 minutes for the larger version. 

This is adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.  I changed the topping to roasted garlic mashed potatoes because my son loves them and this was a dinner for him, after all.  I honestly loved it just the way I made it and wouldn't change it back to the potato slices Martha suggested.  Oh, and this really should be called a cottage pie because it's made with beef and not lamb, but somehow cottage pie doesn't sound as delicious.  It's just a name, right?

For the filling:
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped not too finely
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped to the same size as the onions
1 tbs tomato paste
3/4 lb ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs flour
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dark beer (like a porter or stout, which is what I used)

For the topping:
1 lb waxy potatoes such as red skinned or yukon gold potatoes
1 head roasted garlic*
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup milk
salt to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Quarter the potatoes, put them into a medium sauce pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat, then turn down the heat to medium and cook the potatoes uncovered until they are fork tender.  This should take about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the filling.  In a saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute.  Then add in the ground beef and break it up with your spoon.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Brown the ground beef until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add the beer and thyme leaves and simmer until the beer is slightly reduced.  Sprinkle the flour over the mixture in the pan and stir for another minute.  The sauce will thicken considerably.  Add about 1/2 cup of water and simmer for two minutes, stirring.

Set the filling aside while you mash the potatoes.  Drain the cooked potatoes well and the return them to the cooking pot.  Add the butter and milk and mash with a potato masher.  Squeeze the roasted garlic from the head and add the garlic to the potatoes.  Add salt to taste and stir to combine.

Spoon the filling evenly into two oven-proof bowls or ramekins.  Cover the filling with half of the mashed potatoes and spread the potatoes over the filling.  Place the bowls onto a cookie tray and slide the tray into the oven.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges of the bowl.  Let the bowls cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

*I've described how to roast garlic before.  Check out my method in this recipe!


  1. Love this. What a sweet post, and the pie looks delicious. xo

  2. Delicious!! Whole family raved!