Irish Shepherd’s Pie

It’s March.

In my world, that means that all of the stores near me are selling St. Patty’s day goodies, from food to home decor to holiday outfits.  Everything is shamrocks and leprechauns and ‘kiss me, i’m irish’.  

For someone like me, who is part Irish, I like to use this time of the year to focus my attention on my Irish heritage.  This goes for not only food, but celebrating different Irish traditions as well.  At some point in the year, my claddaugh ring comes off and I only remember to put it back on in March.  I decorate my house with lots of green pillows, shamrock crafts and Gaelic quote boards on the wall.  Almost everything I bake is infused with green food coloring. 

If you couldn’t tell, I take things way too far, way too often.

I love celebrating even the smallest things, so Saint Patrick’s Day for me is an all-month event.  So, it would make sense that I spend all month sharing my favorite Irish recipes. Some of these recipes are pretty authentic while some are more inspired by flavors I associate with St. Patrick’s Day.

So, in honor of this wonderful, bright green holiday, I’m devoting this whole month to giving you some Irish-influenced recipes that will get you in the Erin Go Bragh spirit!

This recipe, in particular, is a favorite of mine because it uses up all those goodies for leftovers. Since I love a good shepherd’s pie, I love turning my corned beef dinner into a tiered masterpiece of flavor. And, since most of the food is already cooked, it’s super easy too!

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

2 tbsp butter

1/2 medium white onion, finely diced

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. of Apricot Glazed Corned Beef, diced

1 cup Slow Cooker Cabbage

3 cups Champ potatoes

1/2 stick butter

In a large skillet, melt butter.

Add onions and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook thoroughly. Remove from heat and drain the liquid from the beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven 350F.

Add the corned beef to the ground beef and stir.

Grease an 8″x 8″ pan. Spoon the beef mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the cabbage over the top of the beef. Top the cabbage with Champ potatoes.

Cut the butter into 6-8 pats and place on top of the potatoes.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top of the potato layer begins to lightly brown.

Serve hot.

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Champ Potatoes

A couple years ago, I was in a restaurant and I ordered a steak with mashed potatoes. When my order came out, I took a bite of my potatoes and decided that this particular restaurant cooked the best mashed potatoes I had ever eaten.

The problem is, I couldn’t place what it was about the potatoes that I loved so much. They were perfectly seasoned. They were slightly lumpy, which might turn some people off, but I happen to love the texture. I tried to discretely dissect the potatoes, looking for some hint of onion or garlic that was providing the extra flavor, even though it didn’t necessarily have an onion or garlic taste.

I was stumped.

Cut to a few days later and I used my handy internet-sleuthing skills to find a copycat recipe of the mashed potatoes from this very restaurant. Turns out the words I was looking for was: beef stock.

How I failed to discern this on my own, I’ll never know. But, as soon as I read it, I knew that was the secret ingredient that was right on the tip of my tongue, no pun intended.

So, for my Irish dinner, I made champ as my starch. If you’re not familiar, champ is basically mashed potatoes with green onions sprinkled throughout. Since I was serving this with corned beef, I decided to take it up a notch with a little beef flavor.

I’ve seen two ways to do this and I’m not sure which is best. One is to boil the potatoes in beef stock. This seems logical, but maybe hard to control. Is the beef stock too strong? Does it require dilution? Will it provide enough flavor? Will it be too weak?

Someday, I’d be willing to try this, but for now, I went with the alternative method, which is using beef base to flavor the milk used in the recipe. I felt this gave me a little more control in that I could pour a little in at a time to see how it tasted.

And before you remind me that you can get this same beef flavor using gravy on the side, let me just say: I don’t like gravy. I’m sure gravy would be great with this. In fact, I know it would because I made gravy with this and other people really liked it. I like my potatoes “undressed” and this flavor really goes a long way for me.

Keep watching for more Irish recipes coming your way soon!

Champ Potatoes

10 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 bundle of green onion, sliced into 1/8″ pieces

1 cup milk

3 tbsp beef base, cut into pats

1 stick of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain.

In a separate small pot, pour milk and add the beef base and green onions. Bring milk to a simmer and allow the beef base to fully mix into the milk. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter. Stir to melt completely.

Pour the milk mixture into the potatoes and mash until smooth. Season to taste.

Serve hot.