Growing up in Canada, the Sunday Roast was a tradition in our house. An enormous piece of beef would appear on the dinner table and our extended family would dig in. And it was almost always beef because my parents had no great affection for lamb or, heaven forbid, pork which could cause a disease called “Trichinosis”, the very sound of which sent shivers up our spines. So beef it was. In the week after the roast, my mother would make Shepherd’s Pie, which is what she always called it. This is a really old English recipe. The first time it was printed was in an anonymous writer’s cookbook in 1737 called “The Whole Duty of a Woman”. (Can you imagine the response that title would arouse today? ) Shepherd’s Pie has evolved since then. In the Victorian era, the hand-cranked meat grinder was introduced so that turning the leftover roast into minced meat was infinitely easier. Mixed with onions and, sometimes, leftover vegetables, the filling was then topped with mashed potatoes and reheated in the oven. I loved it. And it was a good thing because it was a weekly staple in our house for years and years. But when Andrew and I got together he cringed at the very thought of Shepherd’s Pie. Apparently when he was in school in England, in his own words, ‘you can just imagine how badly it could be made’. But having already made hash with some leftover prime rib, I still had leftovers. I decided to prove him wrong. But first I had to correct something wrong about my mother’s Shepherd’s Pie.
5. Heat oven to 400°. Place potatoes in a 4-qt. saucepan, and cover with water by 1″; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes; drain. Meanwhile, bring cream and butter to simmer in a 1-qt. saucepan; keep warm. Transfer potatoes to a food mill or potato ricer, and process into a bowl; add hot cream and butter, season with salt and pepper, and whisk until smooth and fluffy.