French Shepherds' Pie
My dad is responsible for my love of food and cooking. He is self taught and amazing at prioritizing kitchen tasks and cutting corners in order to save time while still creating a flavor-packed dish. Growing up I wouldn’t eat anything but chicken tenders and he used to bribe me with a dollar if I would try something new. Around the age of 16, when I finally started trying food without bribes, I slowly began to realize I didn’t quite know everything. Plus, I had started going out with just my friends and I didn’t want to be the weird chicken nugget girl.
One of my favorite recipes my dad has passed along to me is his French Shepherd’s Pie. It is an extremely low maintenance dish to prepare and feeds a crowd. That is a win-win in everyone’s book. Because it is a braised dish, it gets better as time goes by and will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Because it is just me and my husband eating, we like to portion it out into freezer safe containers and freeze them for the days we don’t want to cook. The robust herbs and red wine create a complex braising liquid that eventually gets reduced to a jus. That pairs beautifully with the creamy potatoes and nutty gruyere cheese.
Your life will be infinitely easier if you read through this whole thing before you get started.
Notes: Normally I’d put the notes at the end of a post but there are a few “vocab” words here and useful tips that will just make more sense if I put them here, right in your face.
1. Mire a Poix (meer ah pwah) is another French term that refers to the holy trinity of flavor, usually used in a base for broths. It’s celery, carrots, and onion. It doesn’t have to be a ton. Those items are not required for this recipe, but they’ll definitely boost your flavor.
2. Rondeau (ron-doe) is a cooking vessel. If you have one, great, if you don’t get one because omg they are amazing. But you really don’t need one for this recipe. It is basically a big “sautee” pan with straight sides and generally 2 handles. Like a wide, shallow pot.
3. Fond is the little golden brown bits that build up on the bottom of your pan when you’re searing a product. When you deglaze a pan (pull all those bits up with some sort of acid, typically wine) they dissolve into your pan sauce and make it that much better. Little bity flavor bombs.
4. Building pressure when you’re braising is key. We are working with tenderloin here so it’s going to be fine regardless, but when it goes in the oven, it’s good to reduce the ways steam can escape. Here we will just use a layer of foil and a lid.
5. Jarlsberg is a good sub for gruyere since gruyere is more expensive.
Pork and Gravy
- one pork tenderloin
- mire a poix (If you need a quantity, just do 3 carrot sticks, 3 celery stocks, and half of a large onion) – about half inch pieces
- 3-5 stems of fresh rosemary
- olive oil
- 1-2 quarts of brown stock
- 1-2 cups of red wine
- 1 big pinch of thyme
- salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
- 5-7 red skinned potatoes, quartered and skins on
- whole milk or heavy cream
- Gruyere cheese, shredded
- chef knife
- cutting board
- bowl for mire a poix
- some sort of weighted lid (I don’t have one for my rondeau ‘cause it was like another $80 – thanks Williams Sonoma… so I just use a cookie sheet weighted down with another pot on it.)
- casserole dish
- potato masher
- sautee pan
- large pot
- Prep all of your ingredients out – mise en place, and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Clean up your tenderloin, remove the excess fat and silver skin.
- The silver skin is the shiny part that sorta looks like fat. You remove this because it doesn’t break down and gelatin-ize during the cooking process.
- salt, pepper, and garlic powder your tenderloin
- Heat your rondeau then add the oil or whatever fat you’re cooking with, add the mire a poix and rosemary
- Once mire a poix becomes fragrant, begin to sear off the meat. And be patient. You’re developing a lot of flavor in this step.
- Once meat is browned, remove it from the pan deglaze the pan with wine and reduce until thick and alcohol is cooked off. You aren’t looking for a syrup consistency, more of a gravy.
- Put your tenderloin back in your rondeau and add enough stock to cover 2/3 of the product
- Note: If you do not have a rondeau and are using a sautee pan to sear then plan on transferring to a casserole dish – instead of returning your tenderloin to your pan you’ll put it in your casserole dish and pour your mixture into the dish with it, then add your stock.
- Seal off the top of your braising dish with foil and then place a lid (or weighted pan) on top and place in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until it falls apart.
- When your pork is ready go ahead and start on your mashed potatoes.
- Boil the water with salt, add the potatoes, and cook until fork tender.
- Drain, reserving a little cooking liquid, then mash. Add milk/cream as needed, add butter and salt to taste.
- Pull the pork from the oven and remove meat from liquid, shredding it with a fork in a separate bowl.
- Strain liquid into a sautee pan and reduce to a gravy. You’ll have more than you need and it may take a little time. Discard your solid ingredients left in the strainer.
- Notes: If you’re wanting to speed this up, make a cornstarch or flour slurry, aka water and flour (or cornstarch) to make a paste. Add to your sauce and stir, this will help it thicken up but you’ll need to cook off the starchy taste after.
- Once you reach a gravy consistency (it coats the back of a wooden spoon), salt and pepper to taste and add in a few cubes of butter and stir until melted.
- Raise your oven temp to 350 degrees
- Layer your shredded pork on the bottom of a casserole dish and pour pan sauce over it. It should be moist.
- Add the mashed potatoes for your next layer and then top with a layer of shredded gruyere cheese
- Bake in oven until all the cheese is melted (about 25 minutes)
- Note: If you want your cheese to be a little crispy on top, turn your broiler on and let it role for about 15-20 minute. But keep an eye on it ‘cause I don’t know your oven.