Cottage Pie + Ten Year Reunion(s)

Cottage Pie

Do you ever feel like high school never really left you behind? This week I do, because I’m prepping to attend not one, but TWO ten-year high school reunions.

That’s right. I went to public high school here in Orlando, and the reunion is being organized via Facebook page. Except that then someone got mad and split off to create a second reunion (dramaaaaaa!). So this weekend I’m dragging Robby to a family-friendly, outdoor event with food trucks and a ‘90s DJ, and then next weekend I’m dragging him to a child-free, select-teachers-invited evening at a comic book shop.

I’ll pause for you to roll your eyes / slap your forehead / etc.

Anyway, the point is that I am now TEN YEARS out of high school, and that deserves a mention.

Ten years ago, I…

  • marched my last band show (entitled “The Rock Project”)
  • got to sing one solo line of “Defying Gravity” at the choir concert
  • made it through the senior choir trip to Busch Gardens and then sprained my ankle in the parking lot
  • sang at my own graduation: Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” and the classic “The Prayer” (our choir director was not above pulling parental heartstrings)
  • let my mom chivvy me into getting my driver’s license…
  • so I could buy a car…
  • so I could drive to my first job (I was a Target cashier)
  • went to prom alone and liked it. See below:

Senior prom

(I was justifiably proud of that dress, as well as my once-every-ten-years manicure.)

I mean, there was school in there too, but school seemed so small when the world was unfolding before me. It was terrifying, but it was thrilling too. To this day, “Breakaway” encapsulates that feeling for me, one part terror to three parts invincibility.

Anyway, ten years is a long time. I have one and a half degrees now, a husband, and some cooking skillz! College was mostly a pasta-with-cheese blur (not that that’s completely changed) but at least my skills are a bit more diverse now.

Cottage Pie 2

For example: Cottage Pie.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie is shepherd’s pie, but made with beef instead of lamb (I borrowed this recipe from Alton Brown, who says that shepherd’s pie ought to be made with ground shepherd, but personally I don’t recommend that).

Cottage Pie

This recipe isn’t difficult, but it does have a lot of ingredients and requires a certain time commitment. On the other hand, it makes a whole pan full, so you’ll likely have leftovers.
Cottage Pie 9


  • Don’t be afraid to season aggressively. You want every element to be tasty so no bites are boring!
  • The prettiest way to top the pie is to completely seal the potatoes on top. The easiest way to do this (for me; your mileage may vary) is to dollop potatoes all over the dish, then carefully spread the dollops together. If the potatoes are too thick to spread well, thin them with a bit of milk.
  • If there isn’t much margin at the top of your pie, you may want to bake the dish on a parchment-lined baking sheet to catch drips.
  • Maybe play a ’90s soundtrack. After being completely out of the loop as a kid, I’m all but decided that I prefer the Backstreet Boys. (What about you? Tell us in the comments!)

Cottage Pie




Potato Topping

  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (russet recommended)
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk

Meat Filling

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup English peas, fresh or frozen


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fill a medium pot with water. Boil potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes (depending on the size of your cubes). Drain when done.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Sauté onions and carrots for about 3 minutes, or until they have some nice color. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds or so. Add meat, salt, and pepper and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, and herbs. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  5. While that simmers, mash potatoes with half-and-half, salt and pepper, and egg yolk. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  6. Stir corn and peas into meat mixture. Pour mix into an 11×13” baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, smoothing flat with a rubber spatula (try to get a nice seal around the edges).
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, or until potatoes start to brown. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

The Burroughs

Katie and Robby Burroughs, writers, photographers, and curators of Bear and Bug Eats.

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