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Shepherd's Pie with Beef??

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Most of the times I've seen this dish on a restaurant menu it's invariably made with beef. WHAT??? This is wrong!!~ This is a misnomer!!!

Shepherd's Pie, like the name implies, is a dish prepared with lamb. Then it's topped with mashed potatoes and baked to make a crust.

Where did this beef variation come from? This should be "Cattle Rancher Pie", not Shepherd's Pie! And the kicker is, I've even seen this dish made with beef in Irish Pubs!!

Of course, in Ireland, you'll only get lamb in a Shepherd's Pie. That's where the dish came from, anyway.

  1. With beef it is actually a "cottage pie". It has become Americanized in the US just like most goulash here would be a mystery to somebody in Hungary. My Mom always made the beef version but we didn't call it Shepherd's pie- just hamburger, mashed potato casserole.

    1. I see shepherd's pie with beef more often than I see it with lamb. I think there are two factors that contribute to this - beef is a lot cheaper than lamb in the US, and a lot of Americans dislike the flavor or lamb (or at least prefer beef to lamb).

      1 Reply
      1. re: mpjmph

        In my experience, most Americans truly don't care for lamb. I certainly despise it in anything other than spicy dishes such as vindaloo. I've been told that it's mutton I don't like, but I've had spring lamb that induced nausea. So, I like "shepherd's pie" made with beef, wrongly named or not.

      2. I think of it more as the preparation method rather than the choice of meat. At least here in the US, like mpjmph said, it's more likely to be beef.

        3 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          no it's not a preparation method, it is ENTIRELY the choice of meat. Shepherd's is lamb, cottage is beef. There is also Cumberland Pie which is when breadcrumbs are added to Cottage Pie (beef).

          1. re: smartie

            Well it can't be ENTIRELY the choice of meat or I could make a pasta sauce with lamb, put it over noodles and call it Shepherd's Pie. If someone tells me they're making 'Shepherd's Pie I can easily imagine what the dish will look like and most of the ingredients, but at least here in the US it is as likely to be beef as lamb. That may be the wrong thing to call it, but it's still what it will be called.

            1. re: escondido123

              I had a Boston cream pie last week for the first time. Presumably it always has a pastry cream in the middle and a chocolatey frosting on top. If I put a vanilla frosting on it it's essentially still a cake but it's not a Boston cream pie any more.

              Same as Shepherd's pie. If you order it in Britain it has lamb in it. Period. You maybe interchange the names in the US but that doesn't make it correct. It's about expectations and we Brits expect lamb in a Shepherd's Pie and beef in a Cottage Pie.

        2. One of my favorite childhood recipes made Shepherd's pie with Campbell's Vegetable soup and cream style corn with ground beef an onions. Not very chowish but there you go. I still find it tastier than most Irish pub versions here in Boston.

          1. I've indicated in the original post that it's invariably made with beef here. Already established that, no need to repeat this--

            My issue is that this is NOT Shepherd's Pie!!!! Call it something else!!!

            8 Replies
            1. re: menton1

              It's called Cottage Pie. Just call it that.

              1. re: menton1

                agree with you menton, shepherds are not out herding cattle. but i'm afraid you are fighting a loosing battle. if it's a ground meat pie with a mashed potato topping, people are going to automatically call it shepherd's pie regardless.

                1. re: menton1

                  When Brits stop using the term football to describe soccer, we will use lamb in shepherds pie.

                  Since it will never happen, I would just deal with this cultural difference.

                  1. re: menton1

                    We had a long thread on this topic not too long ago. What it came down to was: if you are British, or aspire to follow British pub usage, then shepherd's pie uses lamb/mutton, cottage pie uses beef.

                    But in the USA (and even Canada) the distinction either never appeared or was lost a long time ago. Using mashed potatoes as a meat pie topping appears in both British and American sources about the same time, the second half of the 19th c. The shepherd's pie recipe in the 1967 Joy of Cooking book was not a recent import; the one in the reworked 1997 edition was a pub remake.

                    By the way, if the shepherd's pie must be made with lamb because shepherd's only ate lamb, why the 'cottage pie' name? And what's the corresponding dish called in France or Quebec?

                    1. re: paulj

                      "By the way, if the shepherd's pie must be made with lamb because shepherd's only ate lamb, why the 'cottage pie' name? "

                      Because "Cow Pie" just doesn't sound too appetizing! Lol!

                      1. re: paulj

                        The Québécois version is called Pâté Chinois. It's beef, kernel or cream corn, and potatoes. It's a local version of New England Cottage Pie.

                        The French version is Hachis Parmentier. It's just beef topped with potatoes.

                        1. re: paulj

                          This again? .Yes, I remember that long and circular debate and I finally just got bored... Call it what you wish where ever you're from.... Just make it satisfying.

                          1. re: paulj

                            It's called hachis parmentier, in honor of M. Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, who battled to get the potato adopted as people food instead of just animal food. (He also found a commercially viable method with which to extract sugar from beets, by the way).

                            Here's the whole not-so-pretty thread, from just a few months ago.
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765389