Have I mentioned that I'm not a chef? I am just a home cook. I understand that there are many nuances to recipe names or terms and I apologize in advance if I call something a name that differs from your vision of it. Growing up, shepherd's pie for me was always beef, corn and potatoes. Carrots, peas? Not in mine. Here is my version.
1.5 lbs ground beef (I use 85 - 90% lean)
1/2 sweet onion
1 T olive oil
1 T Montreal steak seasoning
1/4 cup beef consume* (or broth, see note)
1 tsp corn starch
1/8 cup cold water
3-4 large russet potatoes
1 14 oz can cream style corn
1/2 can corn kernels
4 T butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
Salt & Pepper
First I dice up the onion and saute it in olive oil in a large skillet. Please note that I tend to go on the lighter side when recipes call for onion and garlic. If you love those ingredients then feel free to increase the amount a bit. Once the onion is soft and getting translucent (4-5 min) I add my ground beef. Brown the meat chopping at it to break it into small bits. Now would also be a good time to peel and cut your potatoes for boiling. Toss them into some salted water and let them go while you prepare the meat.
Once the meat is brown you add the Montreal steak seasoning which is a personal favorite of mine on steaks, in burgers and here in shepherd's pie. At this time I pour in the beef consume. The purpose of this is to create a gravy that the beef sits in. Sometimes I make the gravy on the side and save half for pouring over the finished product. My husband claims not to like gravy so I usually just make it in with the beef now. Mix the corn starch and water well with a fork to remove lumps. Pour that right into your beefy mix and stir.
*If using stock instead of consume, exclude water. Simply mix corn starch with 1/3 cup broth and pour in.
Simmer mix until sauce thickens. This is your first layer. Pour it into your baking dish.
I've used many different vessels for this. In my opinion it is all about the proportions of meat to potato. If you put this into a 13x9 pan your meat layer would be pretty skimpy. You could use a classic Corningware French baking dish like my father does. I happen to like this 9x9" Chantal piece even though I have to heap the potatoes a bit to make it work.
The next layer is the simple one. Crack open a can of creamed corn. Pour it over the meat layer. Now crack open a can of whole kernel corn. Drain and pour half of it evenly over the creamed corn. The combo of the two ensures that you get some saucy corn that mixes down into the meat as well as some nice juicy bites that sit atop the meat layer. You can certainly use frozen corn if you prefer.
Your potatoes should boil until a fork inserted slides out easily rather than sticking. The potatoes may simply break in half if poked when they are done. Drain the potatoes well. Mash with either a hand masher or hand mixer (depending on your texture preference) and add the milk and butter, mixing until combined. Start with less milk and add more until you're happy with the creaminess. Everyone's taste is a little different in this department. My husband likes rough rustic potatoes. I prefer them whipped and soft. It is key to season your potatoes and get them the way you'd like to eat them if they were served alone. Each layer of the dish should taste good.
Dollop the potatoes over the corn layer and smooth them out a bit. I don't like to make a skating rink here. Rough peaks not only look good but will brown nicely in the oven.
One of the great things about this dish is that you can pop it into the oven now or cover it with foil and place it in the fridge for later. I most recently prepared this for my mother in law when my husband and I were going out. She was watching our daughter and was able to put in in the oven a half hour before they wanted to eat.
From the stove top this will take 25-35 minutes at 350° F and a bit longer from the fridge. Just look for the edges to be bubbly and the potatoes to start to brown. If you're looking for a little more indulgence, you can top the potatoes with pats of butter before baking.