I am deeply rooted in my Irish heritage and proud to be the daughter of an immigrant. My mom was born in a small cottage in the village of Glen Farne, County Leitrim, and my dad’s family came from another village just down the road in County Caven.
But I’ve always had a complicated relationship with St. Patrick’s Day. Sure, we celebrated like other Irish-American families: went to the New York City parade, often performed Irish dancing at an event (yes, our whole family took dancing lessons!), and ate corned beef and cabbage for dinner.
But I never liked that our culture attached St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration of Irish heritage, to getting rip roaring drunk. According to my grandma, St. Patrick’s was a holy day in Ireland, complete with church and a big dinner. None of the other “shenanigans.”
Then, as I learned more about St. Patrick and the forced Christianization of Ireland, the celebration lost lots of its luster.
And finally, I never really liked corned beef. My grandma, who lived with us, made soda bread weekly, and we ate potatoes with almost every evening meal. But corned beef was for St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve often wondered if home-made corned beef would taste better than the store-bought version. But it’s a long, drawn out process that I’ve never found time to try.
So - what’s an Irish lass who doesn’t like corned beef to do on St. Patrick’s Day? Well, I love to make my grandma’s soda bread. But for dinner, I go right for a favorite comfort food we had often when I was growing up: Shepard’s Pie.
It’s meat and potatoes with a wonderful gravy that soothes you to the toes. Shepard’s Pie for dinner on a March evening in Montana will make you warm and cozy. You can have it ready in an hour, and if you prep the veggies before-hand, it should take about 45 minutes.
Plus, with a cup of bone broth and lots of veggies, it’s a very healthy meal.
Many cooks will tell you that “Shepard’s Pie” is made with ground lamb and “Cottage Pie” is made with ground beef. Growing up, I only knew of Shepard’s Pie, and we used beef. Most likely, in Ireland, they used lamb which was cheap and available. When my grandma arrived in the Bronx with her two little children, she made do with ground beef – and just called it Shepard’s Pie.
On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone wants to be Irish. Whip up this amazing dish and you’ll be dancing a jig in no time.
2 Tablespoons cooking fat (Butter, Ghee, Tallow)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 -3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 Tablespoon flour (for gluten/grain free use 2 Tablespoons Tapioca Flour)
1 lb. ground beef (I love Oxbow’s)
1 teaspoon thyme
A shot of red wine (optional)
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
About 4 cups (or more!) of spreadable mashed potatoes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the cooking fat in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add carrots and celery. Cook until the vegetables are just beginning to soften.
Add flour (or tapioca). Quickly stir until the vegetables are coated. Cook for about 2- 3 minutes on medium low heat.
Add ground beef and cook until completely browned.
Add Mountain Meadow Bone Broth (Beef) and thyme. If you are using wine, pour in now. (Just a glug from the bottle). Stir to mix well. Cover and cook on medium low heat until the gravy begins to thicken. It won’t be a super thick sauce, but will have some body to it.
Add peas, salt and pepper.
Put meat mixture into an oven safe dish. Cover with mashed potatoes.
Cook in oven for 30 minutes.