Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shepard's Pie in a Twice Baked Potato

To download a cookbook-style copy of the recipe for Shepherd’s Pie in a Twice Baked Potato, click HERE.

Everybody knows twice-baked potatoes, an easy and versatile dish made from a baked potato that has been scooped out, re-stuffed with the potato flesh mixed with cheese, onion, bacon, and/or anything else you like, and baked a second time to a delicious crispness.

Everybody also knows Shepherd’s Pie, a classic meat pie in a mashed potato crust that comes to us from the UK. (It’s worth nothing, though, that similar dishes are served in many countries world over under different names.)

Isn’t it about time they knew each other?

That’s the idea behind this week’s recipe, Instead of putting mashed potatoes back into the potato skins for the second bake, we’ll be using a Shepherd’s Pie filling and, in the usual Shepherd’s Pie way, covering it with mashed potatoes to form a kind of top crust when re-baked. It’s the best of both dishes, joining forces for an easy, hearty meal.

Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:

  • Regarding the type of meat to use for Shepherd’s Pie, authoritative sources are divided into two camps. One side claims real Shepherd’s Pie must be made with ground lamb, and that if ground beef is used it is more properly called Cottage Pie. Other well-credentialed sources assure us that Shepherd’s Pie is made with either. In the interest of full disclosure, it’s worth nothing that both camps agree that the modern use of ground turkey (which I used in the photos below), while low-fat, is not truly authentic.

  • Like most people, I was taught to bake potatoes by making fork-holes in them first and then baking for about an hour. In the recipe below, the method of baking the potatoes – baking without making fork-holes for the first half-hour, then making fork-holes and baking for the second half-hour – comes to us from the Food Network Kitchens, and results in a very nicely textured potato. I expect this will be my baked potato going forward.

  • Here are some helpful tips for scooping the flesh out of the potatoes. Don’t try to do a lot with one scoop. Using a teaspoon, make multiple passes over the potato flesh, scooping out a bit more each time. I also found it helpful to scoop out one end of the half-potato before turning it around and scooping out the other half. Your patience when scooping out the potatoes will be rewarded.

  • Although this recipe uses the mashed potatoes to top the Shepherd’s Pie, there will be a good amount left over. Save them. It will be one less thing to cook for dinner the following day.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the potatoes: olive oil; 4 large russet potatoes, washed and dried; ¼ cup firm-textured butter substitute; 1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream; 1 green onion, finely chopped; salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the filling: olive oil for sauté; 3 medium carrots, finely diced; 1 large onion, finely diced; 1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1 lb ground lamb, beef or turkey; 2 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped; ½ tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped; 1 Tbsp firm-textured butter substitute; 1 cup frozen peas; 2 Tbsp corn starch; 2 Tbsp tomato paste; 5 ounces red wine; 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce; 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock; salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste; grated parmesan cheese

For the garnish: rosemary sprigs or similar

First, let’s get the potatoes baking.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly rub each potato all over with olive oil. (Be careful not to overdo it. We're just looking to apply a little oil to give the potato skin an extra nice crisp when baked.)

Without yet piercing the potatoes, place them directly on the rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Pierce each potato several times with a fork and continue to bake until tender, about another 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, prepare the filling.

Prepare and set aside the chopped and diced ingredients: carrots, onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and green onion. Measure out the peas.

Heat some olive oil is a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and cook until just a little tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add in the onions and sauté for a minute, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds to one minute.

Add the meat, thyme and rosemary. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned.

If there is fat left in the pan (depending on the amount of fat in the meat you’re using), drain it. Add the butter substitute and the peas.

Make a slurry by mixing the corn starch with ¼ cup of water, and stir the slurry into the pan.

Stir in the tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid thickens.

Add the chicken stock, and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened. Adjust seasoning as necessary. When done, set aside until the potatoes have finished baking.

When the potatoes have finished baking:

Carefully trim a wedge from the length of each potato. Set the wedges aside in a bowl.

Using a spoon, carefully remove most of the potato flesh from each potato and place it in the bowl with the wedges.

Be sure to leave enough potato flesh so the skins stay together.

Mash the potatoes in the bowl. Add the butter substitute and sour cream. Stir in the chopped green onion, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the potatoes:

Fill each potato skin with filling.

Top each with some mashed potatoes, pinching the potatoes as you go to form nice peaks; the more peaks, the better the potato topping will brown.

Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the topping has some browning. Plate with garnish and you're ready to serve.

To download a cookbook-style copy of the recipe for Shepherd’s Pie in a Twice Baked Potato, click HERE.

Serve with some of the wine we used in the cooking, and you’re all set!

Please visit again next week for another tasty, kitchen-tested recipe, and a special announcement. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. Love this, Ben...and it's gluten free, too! Thanks for using cornstarch in place of wheat flour! Making!

    1. Thanks, Linda! I hadn't thought about it being gluten-free, but now that you mention it, it is! Glad you like it. :-)

  2. I hope you and yours had a happy Thanksgiving, Ben. It took me awhile to get back here and see this post, but my mom (also gluten-free like Linda) would probably like it a lot.

    1. Val, thank you so much! It was a good birthday and Thanksgiving. (A little unusual - instead of a turkey dinner we went out for Japanese food - but good fun.) I hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving as well. :-) And glad you liked the recipe!