When it comes to shepherd’s pie, there are those who toe a rather strict line, and there are those who go with the comfort food flow.
The former group will maintain that shepherd’s pie must be made with only certain meats and certain toppings, and must be prepared in a certain way. I fall into the latter group, a freewheeling bunch willing to reinvent shepherd’s pie based on whim and convenience.
In my case, so long as there is a meat – any meat will do – on the bottom, corn on top of that and some sort of buttery mashed something over it all, I’m willing to call it good. I even do a quick version that involves no baking whatsoever. The meat and corn are browned in skillets while the potatoes are boiled and mashed nearby. Then I assemble individual portions directly onto serving plates.
I’m even willing to be liberal with the very name of the dish. When I was a child, I’d actually never heard of shepherd’s pie. My great-grandmother always called it Chinese pie, a bit of a New England regionalism I’ve never been able to suss out the origins of. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized my Chinese pie was everyone else’s shepherd’s pie.
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And so with all due respect to the purists who will claim this is no shepherd’s pie, I give you this wonderful version that begins with a blend of sausage and ground bison, and ends with buttery-brown sugar mashed sweet potatoes.