I come from a very Irish family (you wouldn’t believe how many “Patricks” there are in it!). The leader of the family was my mom’s dad – 100% Irish and proud of it! For Papa, St. Patrick’s Day was second only to Christmas. He raised his children and grandchildren to be proud of their heritage and happy to celebrate it so, every March 17th, we were decked out in green from head to toe – shirts, hats, jewelry, nail polish – the works.
When I was growing up, my grandparents always treated the family to a special St. Patrick’s Day brunch at their favorite local Irish restaurant (yes, St. Patrick’s Day was a big enough deal that we could miss our morning classes to eat out with Grandma and Papa!). Each year we would gather together, eat, laugh, and listen to the Irish minstrel that would move about the restaurant performing folk songs and Irish classics. I treasure those memories and carry them with me since my grandparents have passed away.
Now my parents are “Grammie and Grampa” who take their family out to St. Patrick’s Day dinner, and I’m the one who gets to dress my son in green and teach him to be proud of his Irish heritage. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I think of my grandparents often and miss them more. While I can’t quite bring myself to eat corned beef and cabbage, I did prepare a recipe recently that reminded me so much of dinner at my grandparents’ table, I could almost hear “O Danny Boy” playing in the background. The meal is Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie. (We Irish love our potatoes!) While traditional shepherd’s pies are usually topped with plain mashed potatoes, this one uses a mix of sweet potatoes and Yukon golds. That, contrasted with the use of Italian-style diced tomatoes in the beef mixture gives it a little bit of sweet-and-spicy flavoring. It is a hearty home-style meal that will have you thinking of family dinners – past or future.
To make Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, start by peeling the sweet and Yukon gold potatoes and chopping them into one-inch cubes. Place the potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan and fill the saucepan with water until the potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil, then cook the potatoes over medium-low heat 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
While the potatoes are boiling, you can do some multi-tasking. First, preheat your oven to 400°F. Second, spray a 3-quart casserole dish with some nonstick cooking spray and set that aside for later. And third, start browning the beef. Place the ground beef, carrots (I used baby carrots, rather than chopping large ones) and pearl onions in a 12-inch skillet. Cook everything over medium heat, until the beef is browned. (While I love the shape and dimension that those little pearl onions have, in hindsight, I wish I had halved mine for easier eating later on.)
When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Place the empty saucepan back on the stove over medium heat. Add the half and half, butter and egg yolk. Heat until butter is melted.
Add the drained potatoes back in. Use a hand mixer to beat the potatoes until smooth. (Unless you have nonstick-coated pans like I do! The metal blades on your hand mixer are hard on the coating and can cause it to flake off. Instead, transfer the melted butter, half and half, egg yolk and potatoes into a bowl safe for mixing, then use your hand mixer.)
Set the creamy potatoes aside as you finish up with the beef.
Use a baster to drain the fat from the beef mixture. Then, sprinkle the mixture with two tablespoons flour. Cook for five minutes.
Add the beef broth, Italian-style diced tomatoes, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Cook it all together until the mixture just comes to a boil. Continue cooking 5-7 more minutes or until the mixtures thickens.
Finally, stir in green beans, salt and pepper. Cook a minute or so – until the beans are heated through.
Pour the meat and veggies into the greased casserole dish.
Either use a spoon to drop dollops of potatoes on top, or make a piping bag like I did, by spooning the potatoes into a large resealable bag and snipping off a corner.
Bake the whole dish for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and potatoes are golden brown.
Serve your Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie on St. Patrick’s Day or any other day you’re looking to warm up with some hearty Irish fare.
Amanda is paid to write for the Recipe Buzz® Blog.