For St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to revamp shepherd’s pie using Mexican seasonings and braised beef. I’m a little Irish but never felt a connection to Irish food. Shepherd’s pie was the extent of what I knew growing up. So now that I know how to cook, my version utilizes the flavors I know so well. It’s going Mexican. The generous use of chipotle sauce and Mexican cream makes this recipe oh so comforting. Plus, a kick of smoky, spicy heat is always good for the soul.
Of course you can use the classic ground beef, but braising a slab of chuck roast is such a rewarding experience. Definitely make the meat a day or two ahead of time before you make your shepherd’s pie. In fact, it’s best to do this while you’re not even hungry. After about 4-5 hours in the oven, all the seasonings merge together with the succulent beef drippings and it can be effortlessly shredded with your fingers. If you want to mimic ground beef you can chop the shredded beef into smaller pieces.
Herbs and aromatics are important here because the key to braising is to season the liquid as much as possible. Instead of bay leaf I chose an avocado leaf for a more sweet, anise-like flavor. In place of cilantro, I use it’s cousin … culantro. Basically it’s a super-potent cilantro. I prefer it due to its boldness, which is needed to complement the beef and spicy chipotle flavors. This same boldness factor also comes in handy in regards to Mexican oregano, as it works better with spicy food. If you can’t find culantro, just use cilantro … but double up on the amount.
When it comes to the mashed potatoes for this shepherd’s pie, the only thing I did with these mashed potatoes is seasoned the heck out of them with salt, and stirred in some Mexican cream. I’m not exactly sure what makes this cream different from American sour cream, but it has a thinner and creamier consistency. It’s so thin that you can actually pour it from the bottle, rather than scoop it out.
Ingredientsfor shepherd’s pie
- 3 lbs. chuck roast
- 1 can (7 oz.) chipotle sauce
- 2 cans (7 oz.) plain tomato sauce, or make your own
- 3 heaping tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 1 white onion, halved
- 1 avocado leaf
- 1 bunch culantro
- kosher salt to taste
- 8–10 russet potatoes
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup peas, thawed
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 cup Mexican cream
Instructionsfor shepherd’s pie
- Season the beef with kosher salt. In a skillet on the highest heat, brown the beef on all sides just long enough to sear the surfaces.
- Place the seared beef in a baking dish and fill with water half way. Along the sides of the baking dish, stir in the chipotle sauce, 1 can of tomato sauce, cumin, Mexican oregano, and about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. The chipotle sauce also has salt, so don’t go overboard. Once it’s thoroughly mixed together, place the onion halves, culantro and avocado leaf along the sides wherever they fit. Coat the top of the exposed beef with some sauce.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 4-5 hours, occasionally stirring the liquid and basting the beef. The liquid will cook down and the sauce will thicken. Add more water as needed.
- Meanwhile, peel and dice your potatoes. Bring them to a boil in a large pot with salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then mash them in a large bowl. Stir in the Mexican cream.
- Once the beef comes apart easily, its ready to shred. Remove it from heat and let it cool just enough to be able to handle it. Pull apart the beef with a fork or your fingers. Or you can chop it loosely with a butcher knife. Return the shredded beef back to the pan and stir in the other can of tomato sauce.
- Add the layer of peas, corn and diced carrots. Carefully spread on the mashed potatoes. You want to spread the potatoes without pulling up the veggies.
- Bake the Shepherd’s pie at 400 degrees for 25–30 minutes. It may bubble over, so it helps to have a pan on the rack below to catch the drippings.
- Broil for another 5–10 minutes to achieve some nice browned edges on the potato peaks.