Higher starch potatoes like Russets or Yukon golds make for the fluffiest mashed potatoes. Start potatoes in cold water or they’ll cook unevenly with the outside starting to fall apartwhile the inside remains uncooked. Drain well after cooking — you might even heat the potatoes gently on low heat on the stove top for about a minute.
Avoid mashing potatoes in a food processor as it can turn them into glue. By the way, did you know one medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has only 110 calories?
(Bake in 9-inch square baking pan or 2 8-inch pie pans)
- 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds of potatoes (See note 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (See note 2)
- 4 oz. Neufchatel or cream cheese, cubed and softened at room temperature. (See note 3)
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cups frozen mixed vegetables (i.e. peas, carrots, corn, green beans), thawed
- 1 cup savory beef gravy, purchased or homemade
- Wash, peel and quarter potatoes, cutting into even chunks. Place in a large sauce pan; add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Salt water, if desired. Cover pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until fork tender.
- While potatoes are cooking: Brown ground beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Break beef up into 3/4-inch crumbles and add the onion while beef is browning. Remove from burner and drain.
- Stir vegetables and gravy into meat. Spoon into a 9-inch square pan or 2 8-inch pie pans.
- Remove cooked potatoes from saucepan and drain in a colander. Return potatoes to pan; heat gently on stovetop on low heat for about a minute to further dry potatoes. Mash potatoes in pan with a potato masher or remove potatoes and add them back by passing them through a potato ricer (see photo).
- Mix in cream cheese, 1/2 of the shredded cheese and the garlic. Add a little hot milk if the potato mixture appears too thick.
- Cover meat mixture with potato mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
TO BAKE NOW:
Preheat oven to 375° F and bake 20 minutes or until heated through (165° F as measured by a food thermometer) and potatoes begin to brown.
TO FREEZE AND BAKE LATER:
- Cool in a shallow pan on a cooling rack 20-30 minutes; place in refrigerator until completely cooled.
- Wrap cooled pie in a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Label with contents and date; place in freezer. For best quality, serve within 2-3 months; however, shepherds pie will remain safe indefinitely, however, stored at 0° F.
- Thaw for about 24-hours in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Remove foil and plastic wrap; bake pie 20 minutes or until heated through (165° F as measured by a food thermometer) and the potatoes begin to brown. Shepherd’s pie baked cold from the refrigerator may take slightly longer than if baked immediately. Loosely cover with foil at the end if needed to prevent pie from getting too brown.
- Weight need not be exact for potatoes; however, size of potatoes should be similar. One medium potato weighs approximately 5.3 ounces and is about the size of a computer mouse – 4 medium or 2-3 large potatoes should be sufficient for this recipe.
- Some recipes say to add 1 or more tablespoons salt to the water in which you cook the potatoes. Or, you can leave the salt out entirely and your potatoes will still turn out OK. Salt adds to the flavor; not all the salt is absorbed.
- Neufchatel cheese is lower in fat than cream cheese and can be substituted for it in most recipes.
Photos by Alice Henneman