My Recipe Box

Cottage Pie with Beef & Carrots


Serves six to eight.

Cottage pie originated as a way to use up leftover beef stew, but why wait for leftovers? Here’s how to make the ultimate comfort meal from scratch.

For the beef stew:
  • 1-3/4 cups low-salt beef broth (1 14-oz. can)
  • 1/2 oz.dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
  • 2-1/2 lb. thin-cut chuck steaks, preferably top blade (or flat iron), 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of any excess fat or gristle
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-1/3 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 2 small onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 11/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
For the topping
  • 2 lb. russet potatoes (3 to 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter (at room temperature, cut into 3 pieces) plus 2 tsp. (cold, cut into small bits); more for the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup milk, light cream, or half-and-half, warmed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Make the stew:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Pour the broth into a small saucepan and add the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a heavy stew pot or shallow 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry, season lightly with kosher salt and pepper, and put only as many in the pan as will fit without crowding. Sear the steaks, flipping once, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Set aside on a platter, and repeat with the remaining steaks.

Lower the heat to medium, and if the pan looks dry, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the carrots, celery, onions, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for a few minutes. Add the flour, stirring to blend, and cook for another minute. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and reduce the heat to low. With a slotted spoon, scoop the mushrooms from the broth and transfer to a cutting board. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and add them to the vegetables. Slowly add the broth, being careful to hold back the last few tablespoons, which may contain grit from the mushrooms.

Cut the steaks into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and add to the pot, along with any juices. Cover tightly and transfer to the oven. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the stew in a warm place, and increase the oven temperature to 375°F. (Or if making ahead, let cool, then cover and refrigerate.)

Make the topping:

About 30 minutes before the stew is ready, put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover by an inch with cold water. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, partially cover, and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer, about 20 minutes. Drain, and return the potatoes to the saucepan. Put the pan over low heat and shake or stir the potatoes until a floury film forms on the bottom of the pot, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using a ricer, food mill, or potato masher, mash the potatoes. Stir in the 5 Tbs. of butter with a broad wooden spoon. Once the butter is thoroughly absorbed, add the milk or cream in three parts, stirring vigorously between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble and bake:

Lightly butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Spoon the stew into the baking dish. Spread the potatoes on top in an even layer—you don’t need to spread them all the way to the edge. Dot the top with the remaining 2 tsp. butter. Bake at 375°F until the stew is bubbling around the sides, and the top is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes (45 to 55 minutes if the pie has been refrigerated).

Make Ahead Tips

The beef stew can be made several days ahead and kept, covered in the refrigerator; just reheat before proceeding with the recipe. You can also fully assemble the pie 1 day ahead: Do not top with the 2 tsp. butter, cool the pie, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to bake.


Cottage Pie with Horseradish Potato Topping: Drain and squeeze the liquid from 3 Tbs. prepared horseradish. Stir the horseradish into the mashed potatoes along with the butter.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings, Calories (kcal): 490, Fat (kcal): 29, Fat Calories (g): 260, Saturated Fat (g): 12, Protein (g): 25, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12, Carbohydrates (mg): 29, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1.5, Sodium (g): 780, Cholesterol (g): 85, Fiber (g): 4,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Great recipe! Potatoes were a little soft for my taste, so will cut back on the milk next time. Also will use more porcini mushrooms and perhaps add some sautéed cremini mushrooms to add a bit more umami.

My goodness this pie is good. A perfect recipe if ever there was one. I used a flatiron steak, and the taste and texture were heavenly. Everything in the recipe melds together perfectly. Thank you. This recipe goes in the permanent file.


I usually do cottage pie on a night I don't have much time with ground beef. I found beef cut for stew on sale and tried this- I don't think I'll ever make quick pie again because this was so delish! I didn't have mushrooms so skipped that- didn't miss them but will try them next time. I cooked some fresh green beans in butter and mixed in about 1tbsp of tomato paste and a splash of wine and beef stock with some more fresh thyme (1/2 tsp). I added them before I put into the oven. I also used: 1 cup broth, 1 cup stock instead of all broth. and i added a bit more wine and a bit more tomato paste. I was sure that I'd time my potatoes wrong and have to keep it in the oven a little longer to soak up extra juices (and was right). This recipe isn't fast but it really is worth the wait!

This was so good that I looked for the recipe online to share with friends (I have the marvelous cookbook that this is in). I am not a huge fan of Shepherd's Pie, but I would have this again and again. My husband said it is the perfect blend of meat, veggies and potatoes. I recommend using 4 large potatoes to get a bit more topping. Totally worth the 2 hours to prepare, and we'll have leftovers for days! I also advise my fellow aspiring chefs to get the Fine Cooking Annuals; great photos, detailed instructions, and almost every one of them has been a hit. Great for entertaining!

An excellent sauce, in particular. Made this with bison rather than beef: the leanness of bison meant the meat was a wee bit tougher than the cut of beef for which the recipe called, but it was by no means detectable to anyone except me.

This is a great recipe. It's not difficult but it does take about 2 hours of cooking time. We add some grated English "mature cheddar" to the top to give some extra interest.

This was a great recipe. I substituted baby bellas for the porcini mushrooms and left out the celery (I don't like cooked celery.) We ate it for three days!

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