Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two Pies for Dinner: Shepherd's and Apple

October 28, 2012
  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Skillet Apple Pie
  • Redwood Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir

It's February 2013 but I have yet to write about our Sunday dinner from last October 28. I haven't posted something for our October 21 dinner, either, but I've decided not to write about that meal. Not that it was a bad meal, to the contrary, but it was very simple (pan-seared New York steak) and I don't have many notes about it.  So now that I've posted something about our October 28 dinner I guess that I'm finally caught up with my weekly posts. (The recipe index I want to make doesn't count, but maybe it will happen now. ) We're visiting Diane's mom in Oregon on Sunday, February 17, so rather than take photos and write about that meal (Cranberry Chicken, I hear) , I think I'll just post something about this meal from last October.

Shepherd's Pie is the kind of meal that I like to eat. I've been known to order it for lunch at Britannia Arms, a British pub located in San Jose. I have yet to settle on a single recipe so I was happy when the November issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived with a new recipe. This version of Shepherds Pie (or "Cottage Pie", some people insist that  "Shepherd's Pie" have lamb) is very good. Visually it is one of the more stunning recipes with the ridges of potato that have been browned under the broiler. It's a one-skillet dish which means a little less to clean up, but a long-handled skillet with the leftovers is harder to store in the refrigerator than a baking dish.  I made one substitution in the recipe. It calls for Madeira or Port; lacking these I used brandy. The carrots in the finished dish were a little crunchy, perhaps they should have been cut into smaller pieces or simmered for a while longer; this is not a major flaw, however. The pie has a rich meaty flavor, thanks in part to the mushrooms and other ingredients that include glutamates. The recipe says it will take just an hour to make but it took me significantly longer. But then, most people don't stop along the way to photograph every step.

It was apple harvest time and we had been to our nearby apple farm, Gizdich Ranch, where I had purchased Newton Pippin apples to bake into a pie. I chose to make a one-crust skillet pie to save myself some work. This pie is relatively easy to make, the filling is tasty, and it is one of my favorites. Partially cooking the apples in advance helps to develop their flavor.

I am still not a good pie maker, I need more experience handling dough: rolling it out, putting it into the pie plate, rolling out the top crust, then pinching the two together to make an attractive pie. With the skillet apple pie you just need to roll the crust out into a circle and set it down on top of the skillet filled with the apple filling, thus avoiding the steps that I really ought to be practicing.

It's not every Sunday that we have a meal with just two courses with both being Pie. But last October we did just that, and had yummy leftovers to have for dinner and dessert the rest of the week.

Shepherd's Pie from Cook's Illustrated
Skillet Apple Pie  from Cook's Illustrated


  1. Doug - I'm going to try this, but want my carrots to be completely cooked. What about simmering them at the same time as the cubed potato. THen adding them into the recipe as normal? Any downside (except one more step).. How long did you broil this?


  2. Sandy ... there's a link at the bottom of the post to the recipe with all of the details. The carrots are cooked with the filling, I think I would just let this simmer a while longer until the carrots approached the desired consistency.

  3. Reviewing the recipe, I think you would want to simmer the filling to cook the carrots before adding the ground beef.

  4. The pie is broiled 10-15 minutes. That should have been in the recipe instructions, I've added it now. Thank you for pointing out the omission.

  5. When I make cottage pie I will grate the carrots and onions right into the ground beef mixture. They will just melt into it and add a background sweetness rather than pieces of carrot.

  6. I remember you making this when I was little! Probably a different recipe, but I always think of you when I see a recipe for it.

  7. Awwww, that's sweet, Deenie. So far as I recall, mom never made Shepherd's Pie. I don't recall the details but I made it like Doug Hebert's mom made it. I wrote a little about that recipe here: