Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Cottage Pie

I've probably had as many bad versions of cottage pie as good ones, yet that doesn't seem to stop me from trying my luck. Perhaps I just associate them with cool, rainy weather of London, and the warm pubs I used to duck into. Whatever the reason, the combination of minced beef covered with mashed potatoes is one of my favorite comfort foods.

So when I had some leftover mashed potatoes and a particularly nasty day to deal with I decided to make my own version. I ended with this recipe from my old 1997 version of the Joy of Cooking, which reproduced the pub classic in less than an hour, and with quite excellent results.

Bad cottage pie is usually the result of too much fat, which tends to pool on top of the mashed potatoes and weigh the whole thing down. To counter this the fat is drained off the meat before the gravy is made. It keeps things at a relatively comfortable fatty level. Of course, this is a quick version of what is supposed to be a total leftover meal. Though I had the mashed potatoes, I had to cook some meat and make a gravy to get the rest of it done. But whatever. This is still better than most of the cottage pies I've had. And that's good enough for me.

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