Or "Variety is the Spice of Shepherds Pie".
Mark and I had been married for almost three years before I'd ever heard of Shepherds Pie. We went over to our friends, Jess and An, for dinner one evening and they prepared it:
Browned ground beef, green beans, a can of tomato soup mixed in a casserole dish, topped with mashed potatoes and baked at 350 for half an hour.
It was absolutely delicious. And it sparked a conversation with Mark because that's not the way he made it. So a couple of days later, he did:
Browned ground beef, green beans, shredded cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes and baked.
I typically make it based on Mark's recipe, but add onions and minced garlic. As for spices, the first two are limited to salt and pepper. Mine adds garlic powder and onion powder. (I'm sure I've previously mentioned that my husband says he'd never met a family who uses as much garlic and onion as mine does. (As a further aside, it makes you less likely to be munched by bugs.))
What I discovered in the last 2 weeks is that you can say, "I'm making Shepherds Pie for dinner tonight" and a most people are going to know -exactly- what that is... sort of. You see, they all use different ingredients.
It turns out that the unifying theme for shepherds pie is the mashed potato topping over a meat mixed with -something- else. It originated in the late 1800s as a way to take care of leftovers for poor people (because, lets face it, in the 1800s the rich weren't going to eat lowly potatoes.)
My sister in law is credited with making it:
Browned ground beef, corn, and mashed potatoes.
And I have to admit, hearing that reminded me of how I like to eat my mashed potatoes with meatloaf. So I decided to use that statement to make tonights dinner.
Instead of ground beef, I bought ground pork, a can of corn, a small jar of pork gravy and made mashed potatoes from actual potatoes. As I browned the pork, I added diced onion and minced garlic, then seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, like I usually do...but it didn't smell 'right'. So I added rosemary...then sage...then I started thinking about
and thought... "You know...all four of those spices go well with pork" and so I added thyme and parsley as well. And finally, the meat smelled like it was worth eating. As per the usual instructions, I put them all in a casserole dish and covered with the mashed potatoes and baked for half an hour. The end result was pretty good, but very different from what I'm used to.
Next time, if I'm feeling really adventurous, I'll choose from one of these 400 shepherds pie recipes (;