This recipe makes me giggle. Imagine a buffalo shepherd. What would you use for the shepherd’s staff – a 2 x 4 board with a bow on it? And do they come home, like Bo Peep’s sheep, waging their big shaggy tails behind them?
Shepherd’s Pie is a savory meat pie topped with a mashed potato crust. Instead of spooning the meat stew over mashed potatoes, you put the mashed potatoes over the meat and bake it. It dates from the late 18th century, and was a means of using up – and stretching – leftover roasted meat. Now it typically is made with lamb or mutton, with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cattle (and certainly not buffalo), however this is probably folklore. There are probably as many recipes for it as there are cooks – a close friend makes it with ground beef and onion soup mix and puts a layer of peas under the potato topping, another makes it with leftover pot roast.
At any rate, someone passed me this recipe because they knew I liked to cook. The original had beef and lamb mixed. Naturally, I thought buffalo. I think it may be a British recipe, because they refer to the meat as being “minced”. I took a number of liberties with the recipe to make a shepherd’s pie that is very tasty and filling – and still low in fat. An added benefit to this dish is that it can be made ahead, or in stages. I made the meat filling one day, and put it in the refrigerator in the baking pan. When I had more time the next day, I made the potato crust and baked it. I expect you could assemble it completely and refrigerate it to be baked the next day, but you might have to bake it a few minutes longer.
Buffalo Shepherd’s Pie
1 ½ pounds buffalo roast trimmed of all visible fat and gristle, ground (do not use purchased ground buffalo – it is much higher in fat)
2 medium onions, diced fine – I use the food processor
3 carrots, peeled and diced fine
½ pound cremini or button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 can of low sodium, reduced fat beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds Yukon gold or red potatoes
2 Tablespoons light butter
1 cup green onions, finely chopped
If you are making the entire dish to serve immediately, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Otherwise, preheat it to 400 when you reheat the pie.
To make the filling: Spray a large Dutch oven or non-stick pan with cooking spray. Brown the ground meat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and sauté until they are limp and just beginning to color – about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Add mushrooms and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, thyme, parsley and cinnamon. Stir and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, and then add the wine and beef broth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Return the meat to the pan, bring to a boil, cover and turn down the heat to low, simmering for about 30 minutes. Remove the filling from the heat, and spread in a 9 x 13 pan coated with cooking spray, smoothing it until even.
To make the crust: Peel the potatoes and cut them into large, even pieces. Place in a pot of water and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, add the 2 tablespoons of light butter, and mash until smooth. Mash the green onions into the potatoes. Spoon the potatoes over the filling and spread evenly to cover the meat. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes, until the crust begins to brown. This makes 8 hearty servings at 4 grams of fat/serving.
Variation: If you wanted to substitute ½ pound of very lean ground lamb for ½ pound of the buffalo, it would have a more “British” feel, and would be about 6 grams of fat/serving.
Hint: I grind my own meat so that I know how much fat is in it. Store-purchased ground meat tends to be fatty, even the beef that is labeled “extra lean” has almost 5 grams/ounce. I used to grind eye of round – 1.2 grams/ounce, and now I grind buffalo – .6 grams/ounce. I usually grind a large amount of meat using the electric grinder on my KitchenAid. It is a big, all-morning production. I just discovered that it is possible to grind a pound of so of meat by cutting it into medium sized chunks and pulsing it in the food processor. This has interesting implications for ground chicken and pork, to be experimented with soon.
Hint: Tomato Paste is one of those annoying ingredients that you tend to need a spoonful of, but it doesn’t come in single spoon packages. I have been freezing the leftover tomato paste in a plastic zip-top bag, and then I can defrost slightly it when I need a bit and refreeze it.
Warning: this pie is very filling. Every time I eat a slab, I have the overwhelming desire to curl up under a down blanket and take a nap. Maybe it’s the weather.