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Red Wine Cottage Pie - Lightened Up! {for 2} - Champagne at Shannon's

Red Wine Cottage Pie – Lightened Up! {for 2}

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TL;DR – Recipe Here


As a Texan, I do not handle the cold well! While everyone is happy that it is in the 50’s-60’s here in SF, I am bundling up in my fleece lined or sweater knitted everything – in fact, I just ordered these & these in both colours from The Gap { PS – use the code RUSH for 40% off & 3-day free shipping – just trying to help out 😉 – and layers on layers on layers….

& it has been reflected in my cooking. I’m talking chilis, soups, stews – hearty, meat-heavy rich, comforting dishes.

cottage pie

Earlier this week, I had the craziest craving ever for a shepherd’s pie. I went online to read all about them, and man, are they rich.

I am talking adding egg yolks, heavy cream, butter, and loaded w/ cheese to the potatoes, and flour to the meat filling. Although that sounds absolutely delicious, it is a little too rich for me – which is totally subjective. I’ve mentioned we have a huge holiday coming up next month… what that means, is for a few weeks, my boyfriend and I are going somewhere where it is summer, and then a week on an island in the middle of the ocean. That being said, I want to feel my best as I am living in my bikinis for twenty something days. Also, it makes me justify the next bikini (or ten) I just bought….

PS – if anyone has any reccomendations on where to eat / drink/ stay in Melbourne & Byron Bay – let me know!

My modus operandi when vacations or events like this are creeping up around the corner is to really clean up my diet, and that is where I can get really creative in the kitchen. I also am always cooking for two, so I also have his tastes I need to consider. He is somewhat picky, but very simple – and does not like dishes that are too rich or way too complex.

A cottage pie is a Shepherd’s Pie but made with beef rather than lamb. For those unfamiliar, a cottage/shepherd’s pie, very simply put, is a dish of ground meat topped with mashed potatoes, & then baked. It is hearty, comforting, rich, and super filling.

So, I got to thinking of how to make this simple and lighter….

As much as I love potatoes, I figured I’d rather dice the potatoes and have them with the beef like a pot pie, instead of topping the dish with mashed potatoes.

Instead of mashed potatoes, I did my cauliflower mash. For time purposes, I cooked the cauliflower and potatoes together, and then I set aside the potatoes while I prepared the mash.

After the cauliflower is cooked, because I was being lazy, I ran it through my food processor with a bit of chicken stock for flavour. This step is totally optional, but I like the clean richness the stock provides. I brought the pureed cauliflower back into the sauce pan and mixed it with a kiss of butter, a french kiss of Greek yogurt, and seasoned with salt, pepper, a touch of freshly grated grass-fed white cheddar (couldn’t skip this step since I love cheese! But I used probably 1/8 of a cup), and thyme. Then, I stirred in my greenz.

My boyfriend will be the first to say he doesn’t like something, and he loved it! He agreed with me that the potatoes were much better diced with the beef than on top.

Now, let’s talk about the beef, because this is where things get interesting.

I used 93% lean ground meat. I was using butter as my main fat, rather than rendering it from the meat, like I did in my chili recipe. I have a meat grinder, so eventually I will start to make my own, but for now, I pick it up pre-ground at my local butcher. I know I spoke about this before, but I love that the butcher makes it so easy to portion out. I used 3/4 lb, but for this recipe, but you can lighten it up with a half pound, which I reccomend.

The first thing I did when I got home, was mix the beef with salt, pepper, and baking soda + water. This was a tip I learned from my Cooks Illustrated membership. While it was sitting, I cooked the potatoes and put together the mash, which took me about 20 minutes from start to finish – cleaning along the way, of course.

Baking soda, very simply put, will tenderize the meat. Now to get deeper, it changes the chemistry but raising the pH on the meat’s surface. As a result, the meat’s surface is now more alkaline. This will keep the proteins in the meat from bonding too tightly – aka, becoming dry, tough, and pebbly (<< hate that word). Instead, the meat will be tender, and reminiscent of what you may find in restaurants. After the meat was ready to be cooked, I browned it with some butter.

{ Serious Eats touches on it here – Cooks Illustrated talks about it here – read more about my love for Cooks Illustrated & America’s Test Kitchen here }

{ skinny cottage pie }

Meat filling before topping w/ Cauliflower


I’ve mentioned that my boyfriend hates onions & garlic. I love them.. so again, we have to get creative.

He doesn’t like how pungent the two alliums can be, or the texture of them. Now, I can pop raw garlic cloves raw (and sometimes I do this for crazy health reasons, but I am crazy) – I LOVE garlic – and he doesn’t mind them to enhance flavours, just as long as it isn’t obvious. I found the perfect way to implement the alliums, in a process that I dubbed myself, called melting.

First, I use a shallot, instead of an onion. I like the size of them for when I am cooking for two. I find they are a bit more mild in flavour than the onion, which makes them boyfriend friendly. Then, I grate it! I use either a microplane or a box grater, whatever I have on hand. I grated the shallot and one clove of garlic, and cooked it with the meat, right as it browned. This is a win, because I get the flavours I love, and the pieces seem to “melt” with all the other components with the meal – making it hard for the mister to detect!

After the meat browns, I add the vegetables. I used this exact bag of organic frozen vegetables (including green beans, carrots, corn, and peas), but you can use whatever you want. Like all my recipes, I make them super versatile. I also added diced potatoes, and diced mushrooms. I, personally, feel the same way about mushrooms as my boyfriend does with alliums, but he loves the damn fungus. I figure if I can do my garlic/shallot trick, then I can balance it with something he loves. The benefits to the funghi are bomb, and  I have bikini I need to live in next month, I can deal.

After I cook the vegetables with the meat for a few minutes, I add red wine, umami components (I used worcestershire and low sodium soy), a bay leaf, beef stock (I had some homemade bone broth I made in the freezer), and some butter. I also added some arrowroot powder to thicken things up. I LOVE arrowroot, and it is a great gluten-free alternative to flour for thickening. I also use it for homemade cosmetics, so I just always have it on hand. You can also use gelatin to thicken things up.

Then, I cooked it until the sauce went from bright deep red, to a darker tawny colour. After it was the consistency I wanted – thick, hearty, and NOT soupy – I put it in a pie dish. I used a 8″ round pie dish. Then, with a spatula, I topped it with the cauliflower mash, and a sprinkle of freshly grated white cheddar, the same one I used in the mash.

cauliflower mash pie

Topped with cauliflower + cheddar and ready to go in the oven


Then baked it for about 20 minutes, and it was ready to go!

Again, it is super easy, and I make all my recipes extremely versatile (you can easily make it yours), and light. A lot of things I do is optional: the baking soda, the red wine, the cauliflower, the vegetables used, so feel free to sub how you like.

This recipe is gluten-free if that is something you are after. If you want it to be dairy free, nix the cheese, sub the butter for coconut or grapeseed oil, and sub the greek yogurt for unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk. If you want to make it vegetarian, you can use cooked lentils in place of the beef, and use vegetable broth or water rather than chicken broth. If you want to add gluten, add in some flour. My favourite brand is King Arthur Flour. Hands down the best brand out there.

Get creative!! And let me know what you do!!

I was actually torn on whether I should use a dark beer or red wine, but I decided on wine. Why did I choose wine over the beer? Simple. I was in the mood to drink red wine rather than beer whilst I cooked. 🙂 It doesn’t always have to be a science!

PS – the wine I used was Hedge’s CMS Red. It is a great value, and obviously, I had a glass while I cooked. 🙂 They are less than $20 a bottle, and tasty. I especially love their HIP {House of Independent Producers} wines. I’ve always loved their Merlot, but their HIP Chardonnay is fantastic. If you like unoaked chards, I encourage you to try it. I’ve been a fan of Hedges since 2009.

CMS Red by Hedges 2011

Hedges CMS Red Wine // photo via Waterfront Wine & Spirits


Ingredients :
Serves 2 (but you might have some left over!)

Cauliflower Mash:
–  1 big Caulifower
–  1 tbsp of chicken stock
–  2 tbsp of Greek Yogurt
–  Butter – to your liking. I used about half a tbsp
–  Thyme / Salt / Pepper
–  Greenz

Beef Filling:
–  Baking Soda
–  1/2 pound of 93% lean ground beef
–  2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & diced
–  1 garlic clove, grated with a microplane
–  1 small shallot, grated with a microplane
–  Vegetables – fresh or frozen of your choice – as many as you want! I used half a bag
–  2 mushrooms, diced
–  Red Wine
–  A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
–  Herbs – I used Parsley
–  1 Bay Leaf
–  1 tbsp of soy sauce
–  Stock / Bone broth, use to your liking – if you want it more liquid based, use a lot, if you want it more hearty, use about 1/2 cup

Optional :
–  Arrowroot Powder
–  Gelatin
–  Butter
–  White cheddar

:: In ratio ::
1 parts cauliflower mash : 2 parts beef : 3 parts vegetable s
spices / red wine / umami according to taste & as always, optional

Recipe :

  1. Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl, mix beef with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tbsp of water, 1/2 tsp of salt & pepper until fully combined. Place aside for ~20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, put in cauliflower and potatoes. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring down to a medium low simmer and cook until tender. ~8-10 minutes.
  4. Drain, and set potatoes aside. In a food processor or in the saucepan, mash the cauliflower with the chicken stock. Then combine with butter, greek yogurt, and seasonings. Once combined, stir in greenz. Set aside.
    ›› Optional: Stir in grated cheese for added richness
  5. In a large skillet, bring heat to medium-high. Add butter to pan, and brown the meat, breaking it up witha  wooden spoon. ~3-5 minutes
  6. Once meat starts to brown, add grated garlic + shallot. Cook ~1 minute
  7. Add wine, umami, stock, butter, bay leaf, and herbs,& stir.
    ›› Optional: Add arrowroot powder / gelatin, & butter to thicken.
  8. Add all the vegetables and cook until the vegetables are warm, and the sauce thickens and darkens
  9. Discard bay leaf. Spoon mixture into whatever baking dish you would like to use. With a spatula or a piping bag, cover the top with mashed cauliflower, making sure the edges are fully sealed, and sprinkle cheese on top. Cook for ~15-20 minutes, until the cheese melts, and the edges begin to brown.

Enjoy! If you make this or something similar, I would LOVE to see! Post it on Instagram, tag or mention me @shannonsilver and use the hashtag #champagnefordinner

Happy Friday!


PS – it goes without saying that food photography is NOT my forte & mine leaves a lot left to be desired – please be easy on me as I  get the hang of it – I’m just da baby! Trust me when I say this was damn good, regardless of my {lack of} photog skillz! 😉

CMS photo via Waterfront Wine & Spirits

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