Shepherd’s pie loaded baked potatoes take that classic comforting dinner we all love, and make it in to a family dinner made for a weeknight!
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Back and forth…
You just never know what you’re gonna get in September here in Michigan. One day, we’re enjoying the beach and 80 degrees, and the next day, we get a fall preview, waking up to 50 degrees, hoodies, and hot tea! I love that about Michigan though. It’s as if she knows you can’t just swap our blissful summer days for the chill that late fall brings. We ease into it around here. The chill does last for quite a while around these parts, after all.
Cooler weather menus
I’ve been sitting on this recipe since last spring! It happened to be one of those cooler spring days where I decided to use the oven to warm up the house and snap a few pictures while I was at it. The late day lighting suggested warmer weather was on the way with summer around the corner, and I just tucked this recipe away for the inevitable fall cool down, when you all would want to turn your ovens back on again. When the chill hits the air where you live, I hope you can give this recipe a try.
All the shepherd’s pie comfort with less fuss
Because, real life, ya know? It’s so fun to make a big pan of shepherd’s pie on the weekend, but if you’re craving that warm comfort on school night, this method of loading the creamy shepherd’s pie filling right on top of a perfectly baked potato is just the ticket.
The perfect baked potato
This is important! If you’ve never had a really well done baked potato with a creamy inside, and crispy skin on the outside, you are in for a treat! The method will seem so simple, but sometimes that’s the way to go – the less fuss the better. Avocado oil makes things super crispy, which is why I usually reach for that. And making sure the potato skin is coated in sea salt helps dry it out and crisp it up! I also have had nice crispy skin using olive oil. Seasoning the outside of the potato really well not only helps to crisp the skin, it also seasons the potato so you really don’t have much to do after cooking, other than pile on the shepherd’s pie filling!
Can I use sweet potato instead?
Absolutely! In fact 2 out of my 3 girls prefer their shepherd’s pie over a baked sweet potato versus the white potato. The prep method and cook time is about the same – sometimes if the sweet potato is a bit larger, it can take an hour to bake. Just prick the sweet potato with a fork around the 50 minute mark to see if it is soft on the inside.
Shepherd’s pie filling 101…
Savory, creamy, and hearty – that is what should come to mind for a shepherd’s pie filling. The gravy-like sauce is the perfect topping for your bake potato, and the taste will make any kid ask for seconds. I kept the veggies very “classic” shepherd’s pie with peas and carrots, but you really can use whatever you have on hand. If you are grain free, you can also leave out the corn. I love adding diced butternut squash to replace the corn in the fall. Again, pictured here in this post is the classic shepherd’s pie filling with the corn.
How to make the perfect “nest” for your shepherd’s pie filling
When your potatoes are done baking, use a knife to slice a lower case “t” along the top of the potato – one line down the length of the potato, and another across the width. Then pinch the ends of the potato until it “pops” open – the perfect little bowl to nestle all the shepherd’s pie bits and gravy into.
Weeknight prep tips
Both the potatoes and the shepherd’s pie filling can be prepared in advance. If you are a “prep day” kind of a person, you can make the filling on your prep day, and just stash it away in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it. The baked potatoes can be baked off as well, and just warmed through to crisp up in the oven prior to eating. Since the filling freezes so well, you really could double up, and save part of the batch for another time.
- FOR THE POTATOES:
- 5 medium organic russet potatoes
- 4-5 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
- 3-4 tsp sea salt
- FOR THE SHEPHERD’S PIE FILLING
- 2 tbsp friendly fat to cook in (butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil will work well. I like to use half of this as leftover bacon fat for flavor)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1lb grass-fed ground beef
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2-3 tbsp tapioca flour (depending on how thick/saucy you like your filling)
- 2 tbsp organic tomato paste
- ¾ cup bone broth or water
- 3-4 tsp coconut aminos (it is fine to leave this out if you don’t have it – it does really add to the flavor though! It mimics soy sauce in flavor.)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ¾ cup frozen organic peas
- ½ cup frozen organic corn (omit if you are grain free/paleo. Butternut squash subs well - dice it and cook it through at the beginning)
- Sea salt/pepper to taste to finish
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Make sure the potatoes are dry. Poke a fork into each potato 2 times. Rub the oil all over each potato, and then rub the salt over each potato.
- Set the potatoes in a baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes until fork tender.
- While the potatoes are baking, you can make the filling. Melt your friendly fat in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots with a small pinch of sea salt, and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic to stir in.
- Add the beef to the cooking veggies along with the sea salt and pepper and brown the beef.
- When the beef is done browning, stir in the tapioca flour and tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the broth, coconut aminos, and thyme, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, bring the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 7 minutes.
- Take the lid off, stir in the peas and corn, and return the lid, cooking for 5 more minutes.
- Taste the filling for salt and pepper, and then top your baked potatoes with the beef/veggie shepherd’s pie filling.
- **Filling can be made days in advance for quick, weekday dinners!
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