A Hearty Recipe That's Easy to Make in the Kitchen or at Camp
If you're a cook, you know how hard it can be to please everyone while providing a nutritious meal that doesn't take all day to prepare.
Shepherd's Pie, Cottage Pie, Kitchen Sink - whatever the name - is a standard of camp cooks and a sure-fire meal-in-a-pan that'll keep your hungry campers happy without eating up your entire day.
A word about Shepherd's Pie... Traditionally Shepherd's Pie would be made with lamb. We're using sausage and marinated stew meat, but you can use whatever you've got on hand. That's the glory of this recipe, there's no 'perfect' way to make it. If the pan is empty at the end of the meal, you've done it just right!
- 1Lb Italian Sausage
- 1/2Lb Marinated Stew Meat
- 1/2 Cup Sliced Mushrooms
- 1/2 Onion (Sliced into chunks)
- 1 Cup Carrots (Baby carrots or sliced regular carrots)
- 1 Cup Sliced Celery
- 1 1/2 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup Half & Half
- 1 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- Worcester Sauce
- Instant Potatoes
Stew Meat Marinade
Marinating meat can take time. If you're in a hurry, don't worry about this step. If you've got time, here's a simple marinade that tastes great and adds to the full flavor of your Shepherd's Pie.
- 1/2 Pound Stew Meat
- Bottle of inexpensive Italian salad dressing
- Coarse ground pepper
Place stew meat (frozen or thawed) into a resealable plastic bag. Dump in about 8 ounces of Italian dressing and a generous (three finger) pinch of pepper. Roll the bag around in your hands to make sure the meat is covered in the marinade and let marinade in a cooler or fridge for a few hours.
Here's a little trick that'll save time in the oven and season your cast iron at the same time. Brown your Italian sausage, then lightly sauté your vegetables in the pork fat. You'll get the veggies partially cooked and the fat will get your pan ready for the rest of the goodness.
Heat your favorite cast iron pan to the point it's about to smoke and drop in the Italian sausage like hail. Not all at once, but in small clumps all around the pan. Once the sausage is mostly browned, slowly add your vegetables, starting with the mushrooms (yes, technically they're fungi, but you get the idea).
After you've lightly sautéd your veggies and browned the sausage together, remove them from the pan. Get your cast iron good and hot again and start adding your marinated stew meat.
Now that the stew meat is good and browned, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flower over the meat and mix it in, making sure that all the meat has a light coating of the browned flower.
Make the gravy
Creating the yummy gravy is an imperfect science. Some like it thick, others like more liquid. Whatever your preference, it's as easy as adding more or less liquid.
Mix in your vegetables and browed sausage.
Combine your water and half & half in a measuring cup.
Slowly stir in the liquid. It'll steam and bubble at first, then thicken up as you stir. Add as much or as little as you like. Keep in mind that the gravy will thicken a little while the pie is cooking in the oven.
Reduce heat and add the topping.
Top it and bake it
Now that the ingredients are all mixed together it's time to add the famously delicious topping and pop it in the oven.
Shepherd's Pie purists will want to avert their eyes at this point. Our recipe calls for instant mashed potatoes for the topping. We've got nothing against the real thing, but this is a recipe for campers and cooks without a lot of time. When you're cooking on propane or a fire and need to preserve resources, instant potatoes are quick and easy to pack for your camp kitchen. When you're at home or you have the time, we always recommend using fresh ingredients.
Mix up enough instant mashed potatoes to fit in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the potatoes to the top of the pie in clumps before gently flattening them with your hand or the back of a mixing pan.
Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
Pop it all in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. If you're on a camp fire, and you've got a dutch oven, you can cover the pan with your lid and set 3 or 4 medium size coals from the fire on top of the lid while the pie is baking to give it that golden brown topping.
One of the best things about Shepherd's Pie is it's an all-in-one meal. For the camp cook that means less dishes to wash. For the camper it's a great meal on the go that get's you back into the wild quickly.
If you've got a favorite Shepherd's Pie recipe, feel free to share it with us. We really enjoy hearing from our readers.