Venison Shepherd’s Pie

First off, before I give you my amazingly delicious recipe for Venison Shepherd’s Pie in a cast iron skillet, I want to make it clear that I actually really DO know the difference between Shepherd’s Pie, and Cottage Pie. According to Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge, Shepherd’s Pie is ONLY made with lamb. (My objection to that concept is that it’s some kind of Good Shepherd who eats his lambs!!!) And Cottage Pie is only made with beef.

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet.

I swirled a fork through the mashed potatoes, and then browned them briefly under the broiler to get the pattern on top. Isn’t it pretty, and delicious looking?

These limitations caused me some consternation. This pie of mine is neither lamb, nor beef. And I like to be authentic, in my recipes. What I could remember about deer/venison in jolly old England was that Robin Hood was always getting in trouble for eating the king’s deer that roamed Sherwood Forest. So, I thought about calling it Poacher’s Pie. But my husband wasn’t fond of that, feeling it might cause someone to think he acquired our venison in an unseemly fashion. (Not so!!!)

In need of an accurate recipe title, I decided to name it Shepherd’s Pie, anyway, in honor of Gus. Gus was fed venison almost from birth, beginning with the breeder who helped him make his entrance into this world. And, clearly, Gus would gobble down some Venison Shepherd’s Pie (were I to leave it close enough to the edge of the counter). He’s a bit miffed that I’m using his name in vain, in fact, since I didn’t actually give him any. 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet.

Augustine of the Boonies, who clearly wants a Dog-Friendly version of Venison Shepherd’s PIe.

What is Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional hearty dish from Great Britain, often found in pubs. It is a meat pie, with a crust of mashed potatoes. The meat and veggie filling of the pie are typically cooked in some kind of gravy. It’s often used as a vehicle for using up leftover roasted meat of any kind. 

Why Does This Recipe for Shepherd’s Pie Use Venison?

As much as I love beef (and I do!), I’m married to a hunter, who brings me home lots of venison each fall, that gets deposited in my freezer. Once I discovered how delicious venison is, and how much better it is for us than beef, it has become my substitute for ground beef in most recipes. 

So can you use beef in this recipe? Absolutely! My recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated that used ground beef. So don’t NOT try this, just because you don’t have any venison in your freezer! My hope in sharing this recipe was to put a recipe out there for cooks who pretty much only use venison in chili, (and I know a few of those!), but who are looking for a little variety in ways to use their ground venison. 

A Visual Tutorial for my Venison Shepherd’s Pie Recipe:

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet.

Once your onion and mushrooms are saut├ęd and you’ve added the tomato paste and garlic and Madeira,you’re going to make a roux, by slightly browning your flour.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

This is where you add the broth and carrots to the roux, to make the gravy.

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

Adding the ground venison in chunks to the pan, and bringing it all up to a simmer.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

The potatoes are mashed. The filling’s being made. Then it’s time to assemble the dish.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

I put the mashed potatoes into a ziplock bag, snipped off the corner of the bag, and spiral-swirled them over the filling, so that there wouldn’t be much to even out with my spatula.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

Once the potatoes were evenly distributed, I took a fork and swirled it through the pie, in a kind of ongoing set of “S” curves.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

Here’s what it looked like in its entirety, when it came out of the oven, and after I’d sprinkled it with a bit of parsley.

 

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

And what it looked like after I’d served up the slice you saw at the top of this post.

But Wait: I Have More Venison Recipes on my website!

If this is not the venison recipe you were looking for
(these are not the drones you’re looking for….)
I have other wonderful venison recipes I hope you’ll check out, including Bambi Burgers with Caramelized Onions, Spaghetti with Venison Meatballs, and Venison Stroganoff with White and Wild Rice. No disrespect intended in regard to chili made with venison. Especially not if it’s the World’s Best Venison Chili. And all the hunters I know love seem to be obsessed with venison jerkey! So if that’s a recipe you’d be interested in, I have a delicious Venison Jerky recipe.  But in the meantime, here’s: 

The Recipe for Venison Shepherd’s Pie

Venison Shepherd's Pie
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Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs. ground venison
  2. 2 T. plus 2 t. water
  3. salt and pepper
  4. 1/2 t. baking soda
  5. 2 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1" chunks
  6. 4 T. butter, melted (1/2 stick)
  7. 1/2 c. milk
  8. 1 large egg yolk
  9. 8 green onions, green parts only, sliced thin
  10. 2 t. vegetable oil
  11. 1 onion, chopped
  12. 4 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  13. 1 T. tomato paste
  14. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  15. 2 T. Madeira or ruby port
  16. 2 T. flour
  17. 1 1/4 c. beef broth
  18. 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  19. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  20. 1 bay leaf
  21. 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  22. 2 t. teaspoons cornstarch
To keep the meat tender
  1. Combine venison with 2 T. water, 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper and baking soda in bowl until thoroughly mixed. Set aside for 20 minutes.
To make the mashed potatoes
  1. Place potatoes in sauce pan; add water to cover and 1 T. salt. (Potatoes like a lot of salt.) Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to sauce pan. Return sauce pan to low heat and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture on potatoes has evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and mash potatoes well. Stir in melted butter. Whisk together milk and egg yolk in small bowl, then stir into potatoes. Stir in scallion greens and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
To make filling
  1. Heat oil in broiler-safe 10" skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, mushrooms, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper; cook, stirring until vegetables are just starting to soften and form dark bits on the bottom of the skillet, 4-6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic; cook about 2 minutes. Add Madeira and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add broth, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaf, and carrots; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, add venison in in 2" chunks to broth, and bring it to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until venison is cooked through, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up meat chunks with a fork, halfway through cooking time. Stir cornstarch and 2 t. water together in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds - this should thicken your gravy. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To add topping and broil
  1. Adjust oven rack 5" from broiler element and heat broiler. Place mashed potatoes in large ziplock bag and snip off 1 corner to create a 1" opening. Pipe potatoes in an even layer over filling. Smooth potatoes with a cake frosting spatula, and then use the tines of a fork to make ridges over the surface of the pie. Broil until potatoes are golden brown and crusty, and filling is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes, but keep an eye on your pie, as broilers vary in strength. Let cook 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. The reason for tossing the meat with the baking soda and water is to raise the pH of the venison, thus keeping the proteins from bonding too tightly. This prevents the meat from becoming pebbly, making it more tender.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
That Susan Williams https://www.thatsusanwilliams.com/
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I’ve made you a picture that is perfectly sized for Pinterest, too.

Venison Shepherd's Pie: delicious, easy, and made in a cast iron skillet. #venison #recipe #castironskillet #familyfavorite #shepherdspie

Ready to be pinned on Pinterest!

 


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