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.
- 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
- 3 tablespoons Canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 pound chuck beef, finely chopped or ground
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup beef stock
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Pinch nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and carrots. Cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Add the beef. Cook until well browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Pour off any accumulated fat in the skillet. Sprinkle flour atop the beef and vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Then add the stock and the thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg. Stir and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and lots of pepper.
Dump the meat mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish and spread out into an even layer. Carefully spoon on the mashed potatoes and spread them out evenly. Make little patterns with a fork all over of the mashed potatoes to create a rough surface. Add little pieces of the butter all over the top. Place in the oven and cook for 35 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes. Serve.