Cheddar-Topped Shepard's Pie
I'm going to be honest. I skimped. I used a box of instant mashed potatoes instead of making my own. It was the first time I'd try that out, and wasn't too pleased. I should've either made them myself or used a different shortcut: Bob Evans refrigerated mashed potatoes. I don't know if you've tried those, but they're good. Really good. So don't hesitate to cheat, but buy a good cheat.
Also, the beef filling needs a bit more flavor, so I altered the recipe slightly by adding a cup of beef broth where it previously requested water.
Slightly adapted from: Martha Stewart
2 lbs. baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 T. vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 lbs. ground beef chuck
1 c. beef stock
1 c. beef stock
1 c. whole milk
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup beef stock; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.
Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.
Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.