Meg Gerritson shares this recipe from Bridgewater, Aroostook County, Maine.
Potatoes are perfectly suited to Aroostook soils and climate, and have been grown up here for well over 200 years. Steadfastly, potatoes remain an important part of Aroostook's cultural identity. For farmers like us who make their living growing Maine potatoes, they are a critical part of a rich, potato-centered way of life. In Aroostook County, not only are potatoes a vital economic driver, but the countless potato fields provide community cohesion and serve as the main roadside attraction for the long-distance travel required of everyone in the sprawling Big Sky country that is Aroostook. Not surprisingly, in this land where The County honors heritage, potatoes still loom large on menus, at roadside stands, and occupy a hallowed place at Aroostook kitchen table settings. Elsewhere in New England, a fine, sunny fall day might be breezily called a ‘’nice day.” However, here in very rural Aroostook County, it's still universally perceived as “A good day to dig potatoes.”
Editor's Note from contributing food editor Catherine Walthers: This recipe comes from the newly published and award-winning cookbook, Maine Community Cookbook: 200 More Recipes Celebrating Home Cooking in the Pine Tree State, compiled and edited by Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz. It follows their Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook published in 2020. Both volumes highlight Maine's resources and rich food traditions through recipes from home kitchens throughout the state. Each recipe tells a story, describes a family tradition, or introduces you to an immigrant family or 13-generation Downeast Yankee cook — it's such good reading and gives you a glimpse into real Mainers now and in the past from the ordinary to the famous and infamous. You meet a 101-year-old Virginia Oliver, the state's oldest licensed lobster harvester, offering her recipe for Lobster Thermidor, and the late Ma Dudley who was included in Yankee Magazine's first column featuring the Greatest Cooks of New England for her hot Caramel Rolls and homespun Maine cooking at the former Ma Dudley's Homestead restaurant in Castle Hill. Or, the creator of this recipe below, organic potato farmer Meg Gerritsen, spouse of farmer Jim Gerritsen who has his own Wikipedia page in part for taking on agricultural seed giant Monsanto in 2011. The Readable Feast Cookbook Program, which chooses the best cookbooks from New England each year, awarded this book first place among community cookbooks for 2022.Print
Maine Community Cookbook's Shepherd's Pie
- Yield: Makes 1 pie 1x
- 2 pounds potatoes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 large Chantenay carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons oil or lard, or more as needed
- Celery leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 pound ground beef or leftover cooked, diced pork, beef, poultry, or venison
- Salt, pepper, sage, and thyme, to taste
- 1 to 2 cups chicken, beef, or leftover stock
- 1/4 cup flour
- Leftover vegetables for color
- 1/2 cup cream, sour cream, Greek yogurt, or milk
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wash, cube, and boil the potatoes in enough water to cover in a covered saucepan, until tender. Set aside to cool. Potatoes can also be steamed in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
- In a large Dutch oven or deep frypan, cook the diced onion and carrot the oil or lard until starting to get tender. Add the celery leaves and crumbled beef and fry until just browned. If using cooked, leftover diced pork, beef, poultry, or venison instead, it can be added after the vegetables are cooked. Season with love, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme to taste.
- At this point add a little stock from last week’s roast, or what have you, about a cup or two. You can thicken this with a little flour mixed in the cold stock before adding to the Dutch oven. Whisk in. Then add any other leftover cooked vegetables you think will brighten the mix: peppers, shell beans, etc.
- Drain and mash the potatoes with a masher or ricer. Remove the skins if you like, or leave them in. Blend the mash with cream, sour cream, Greek yogurt, or milk. Or it is fine just as is. Season mashed potatoes with a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of pepper.
- Spread the mash over the top of the stew mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and just browning on top a bit. Serve to damp-haired, wool sock-wearing, chilly-but-warm-hearted family at the end of a day outdoors.
I have never seen a shepherd overlooking a herd of cows, pigs, venison, or chickens. but I have heard of shepherds, overlooking a flock of sheep. Shepherds, pie is made with lamb, and you do not even have that as an option. Truly is too bad the way we change, the original meanings of words.