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Eric Akis: Shepherd's pie and twice-baked potatoes make a tasty combo

Large baking potatoes, baked until tender, are hollowed out, filled with a shepherd’s pie-style filling, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes, and baked until golden and delicious.
For this shepherd’s pie-style dish, baked potatoes are hollowed out, filled with shepherd’s piee filling, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes and baked again. ERIC AKIS

If you like baked potatoes and enjoy shepherd’s pie, here is an idea: combine the two in one tasty creation — what I did in today’s recipe for shepherd’s pie twice-baked potatoes.

To make them, large baking potatoes are baked until very tender. Once cool enough to handle, but still warm, the tops of the potatoes are cut off and the flesh from the potatoes is scooped out. Once that’s done, you mash the potatoes you scooped out and mix them with such things as butter, buttermilk (or regular milk) and grated cheddar cheese.

The potatoes you hollowed are then stuffed and packed with a cooked, cooled, ground beef (or lamb) mixture, the type of meat mixture you use in a shepherd’s pie. That mixture is then topped with the mashed potatoes, which can be piped on with a star-tipped fitted piping or simply spread on with a spoon or thin spatula.

The last steps are to top those mashed potatoes with some additional grated cheddar cheese, and then bake the stuffed potatoes until very hot in the middle and golden on top.

The recipe yields four shepherd’s pie twice-baked potatoes. And, because they are large, one per serving should suffice, especially if you plate and serve a nice green salad alongside each stuffed potato. You could also serve the stuffed potatoes with a condiment, such as HP Sauce or mustard pickles.

You can make the stuffed potatoes many hours in advance, refrigerate them, and bake them when needed. You could also freeze them, unbaked, to thaw and bake at another time. See recipe for details.

Shepherd’s Pie Twice-Baked Potatoes

Large baking potatoes, baked until tender, hollowed out, filled with a shepherd’s pie-style filling, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes, and baked until golden and delicious.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: about 105 to 120 minutes

Makes: four servings

400 grams lean ground beef or ground lamb

1/3 cup finely diced onion

1/3 cup grated carrot

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3/4 cup beef stock, plus more if needed

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup frozen peas

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 large baking potatoes (each about 275 to 300 grams)

2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk or homo or 2 per cent milk, plus more if needed

1 cup grated aged cheddar cheese (divided; about 100 grams)

Place beef (or lamb) in a medium pot and set over medium, medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and crumbly. Look into the pot, and if there are noticeable clumps of meat, use a potato masher to create a smooth meat mixture.

Add onion, carrot, garlic and thyme to the meat and cook and stir four minutes. Mix in the flour and tomato paste and cook one to two minutes more. Mix in the 3/4 cup stock and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until beef mixture thickens, two to three minutes. Add a bit more stock if you want the meat mixture to be thinner. Season the meat mixture with salt and pepper.

Remove pot from the heat and let meat mixture cool to room temperature, then mix in the peas and corn. Cover and refrigerate meat mixture until needed. It can be made many hours in advance.

To cook the potatoes, preheat oven to 400 F. Wash potatoes well and then dry. Prick each potato a few times with a fork and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake potatoes until very tender, about 65 to 75 minutes.

When baked, cool potatoes until safe enough to handle, but still warm. Cut the tops, about three-quarters of the way up, off each potato. With a small spoon, carefully scoop out as much of the flesh as you can from the bottom portions of the potatoes and place in a bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Place potato shells back on the baking sheet. Also remove the flesh from the top portions of the potatoes and put that in the bowl, too.

Mash the potatoes in the bowl until very smooth. Add the butter and 1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk) and vigorously mix to combine. Add a bit more buttermilk (or milk) if mixture is not moist enough for you. Mix in 2/3s of the grated cheese, and then season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

Divide the meat mixture between the potato shells, packing it in and mounding it a bit over the top of them. Now generously pipe or mound some of the mashed potatoes on top of each filled potato. Top each potato with some of the remaining grated cheese (see Eric’s options). Bake the potatoes in a 400 F oven until golden brown on top and piping hot in the middle, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Eric’s options: You can make the potatoes oven-ready hours before needed. Once stuffed and topped, refrigerate until ready to bake. If you do this, you might need to add a few minutes to the baking time, as you’ll be starting from cold.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.