Fridays are my meal planning day.
Meal planning sessions always start the same way–a quick look at the weekly calendar to check for busy days or times we won’t be home, a few minutes with my inventory lists and planning as many meals as possible with the food we already own (oatmeal pancakes, salads, burgers), and final planning help from my valuable list of family favorite recipes (the secret weapon to easy meal planning!).
The meals that top our favorite’s list are recipes/ideas that are guaranteed to be loved by the whole family. Some meals are easy to make, others are more complicated.
Meals that require hours in the kitchen don’t often make their way from the favorite’s list to the “I can’t wait to make this for dinner” list (AKA: my meal planning calendar). But here’s the thing. My family knows I have a list. I asked them to contribute to the list. After a few weeks of skipping favorite meals, questions arise, “Can we have shepherd’s pie again? We haven’t had it in soooo long!”
That’s my dilemma.
Over the last six months I’ve been working on my dilemma– a happy medium between not spending all afternoon and evening cooking and cleaning, but still creating the more complicated meals my family loves. Simplifying a few of our favorite meals has been my mission.
With the cold weather still upon us, a winter favorite has been requested multiple times–shepherd’s pie. Shepherd’s pie isn’t overly time consuming and complicated, but the multi-step process always defeats me, at least mentally. Yes, the end result of warm potatoes nestled over saucy beef is always worth it, but simplification was needed if this beloved dish was going to make it back to our table as a regular favorite.
This, my friend, is the answer. The answer to the pile of dishes and multi-step process we once knew as the only way to make the shepherd’s pie we all love.
The answer starts with chuck roast (yep, say good-bye to ground beef) that is braised for hours in the crock-pot. With beef slowly cooking in the crock-pot the possibilities are endless– play with the kids,
stare at fold the laundry, enjoy a latte (or two!), or write a blogpost. Six hours later the perfectly tender beef is ready to shredded and topped with homemade mashed potatoes (which can be made in advance).
Mission Completed. Comfort food simplified.
Easy Crock-Pot Braised Shepherd’s Pie
Crock-Pot Braised Beef:
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 celery ribs diced
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 lbs beef chuck roast
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup good-quality beer I like Pale Ale (beef broth may be substituted)
- 2 TB arrowroot starch/flour
- 1 cup peas frozen
- 5 large red potatoes peeled
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 TB butter cubed
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sprinkle the chuck roast with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
If your skillet is large enough, push the vegetables to one side. Add the chuck roast to the hot skillet, browning the meat on each side for 4 minutes.
Place the chuck roast and vegetables in a crock-pot. Pour the beer over the meat and vegetables. Cook on low for 6 hours.
Place the potatoes in a soup pot (or Dutch oven). Fill the pot with water until the water just covers the potatoes. Add the salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain the water from the potatoes, leaving the potatoes in the pot. Add the cubed butter. Mash the potatoes and butter with a potato masher. Add salt or pepper to taste.
After 6 hours, preheat the oven to 350F. The beef should easily pull apart with a fork. Using two forks, shred the meat and remove any bone(s) from the crock-pot. Add the arrowroot flour to the liquid and whisk. Add the peas and stir.
Pour the meat and veggies mixture into a 13X9 pan. Top with the mashed potatoes, and finally the shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Serve warm.
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