Happy Pi Day…and a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie

In the spirit of Pi Day (March 14th) I wanted to bake a savory pie with an Irish influence because St. Patty’s day is coming up.

I adapted this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. I recommend going to her site and subscribing to her newsletter. Her recipes are beautiful and inspiring.

I have fun making substitutions, such as replacing red wine with red wine vinegar and Guinness. Guinness is used in some Irish dishes, and vinegar or anything acidic is typically used to deglaze a pan.

I omitted the carrots and peas because I had frozen pre-cooked veggies that I wanted to use. I only had a small piece of pancetta instead of bacon, and I used yellow waxy potatoes instead of Russets for making mashed potatoes. The amount of cream had to be reduced since the starchy Russets absorb more liquid than waxy types.

Essential tools should be mentioned before starting:

  • I used a 10-inch stainless steel Tramontina pan, which can go from stove to oven and looks nice on the table. The original recipe calls for 12-inch skillet but since I wasn’t making the full amount of meat called for, I could use a smaller one. The contents were bubbling in the oven but did not overflow.
  • Potato ricer makes for smooth potatoes. Mashing by hand is ok.
  • Garlic masher is just easier than peeling and chopping garlic.
  • Pressure cooker for easier mashed potatoes.


  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef (I used grass-fed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
  • few pieces of pancetta
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cooked vegetables (carrot, peas, green beans)
  • 1 cup red wine (substitute with half cup of red wine vinegar and half cup of Guinness)
  • 1 tablespoon cassava flour or starch
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • chopped chives or green onions


  1. Place the beef, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of water in a medium bowl. Mash with your hand to combine. I prefer to use a food prepping glove on one hand so the other hand can remain relatively clean. Two reasons: massaging cold meat is rather cold, and I won’t have to scrub meat from my fingernails. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. While the meat tenderizes, peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler. No need to be surgical about this, just trim the ugly spots. Rustic is very much in. I use a cut-proof glove on the hand that is holding the potato (it gives me confidence so I can peel faster).
  3. Cook the potatoes until fork tender. Pressure cooking is the way to go. Not only does it use less water, but you won’t have to watch it. I love my InstaPot.
  4. Add 2 cups of water to inner pot and add 1 tsp of seasoning sea salt. Add potatoes and twist the lid. Close the release valve on the lid. Set to Manual and High Pressure for 5 minutes. It usually takes 6-10 minutes to get to pressure, than it will start the 5 minute timer.
  5. While potatoes are cooking, move on to the stew.
  6. Heat the oven-proof skillet over low heat (my Tramontina pan gets hot quickly and stays hot, so low heat for me is sufficient to brown bacon). Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer pancetta out of the skillet leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onions and veggies to the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the wine (or wine substitute) and increase the heat to medium, scraping the bottom of the pan until the liquid is reduced a bit. Add the cassava flour and stir until dissolved.
  7. Add the reserved ground beef, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce; continue cooking on medium to low heat, breaking the meat apart until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth; bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pepper and reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  8. When potatoes are done, release the pressure and open lid. Drain water and return potatoes to pot. Rice the potatoes with the ricer. Add the sour cream, butter and cream. If using waxy potatoes add 1 tablespoon of cream at a time to avoid becoming too runny. I only added 1 T of cream. Use the masher to stir and mash the potatoes until all ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  9. Dollop the mashed potatoes evenly over the filling. Use a rubber spatula to spread the potatoes evenly over the stew and all the way to the edges of the skillet. Drag a fork across the top to make ridges. Place the skillet on a baking sheet to catch any drips (mine did not overflow) and broil until the topping is lightly browned, and the edges are bubbly, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.