1largeshallotpeeled and diced small, ~1/4 inch dice
1large carrotpeeled and diced small, ~1/4 inch dice
1tbspfresh thymeor 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
2cupsbeef stockor chicken or vegetable stock
½cuphalf & halfor whole milk
2clovesgarlicpeeled and smashed
¼cupgrated pecorino cheeseplus 1-2 tbsp for sprinkling
Maldon sea saltfor sprinkling
kosher salt and black pepperfor seasoning along the way
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your potatoes by rubbing them liberally with olive oil and sprinkling well with salt. Bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. Use a paring knife to check that the potatoes are very tender even to the center. Once the potatoes are done, pull from the oven and let cool slightly for about 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients. Then, get a heavy bottom, high sided pan heated over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Season ground beef with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Form the ground beef into a large thin patty and place in pan. Cook until the first side is well browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the patty over. This might break apart a bit which is fine, but just flip in a few large pieces. Let the second side brown for another 3 minutes. Then, use a spatula or wooden spoon to crumble the ground beef up into small pea-sized pieces. Cook until the beef is just about cooked through. Move to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Turn the heat to medium. Add the shallot and carrot and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the shallot is soft and translucent and just starting to turn brown around the edges. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the beef back to the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Then add the stock and stir until well combined and the liquid looks smooth. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender and the gravy has thickened. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Turn off the heat and set aside for assembly.
In a small saucepan on low, warm the cream and melt the butter together. Add the smashed garlic cloves. Let steep on the lowest stove setting while you're making the Shepherd's Pie filling.
Once the potatoes are just cool enough to work with, cut about 1/4 of each potato off the top. Use a pointed tip spoon (a serving spoon is good for this), scoop out the insides of the potato into a large bowl. Leave a 1/4 inch potato border/wall. Add the cream and butter mixture to the potato filling. Make sure to remove the smashed garlic and discard. Add the pecorino cheese. Mash to your liking. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Heat oven to 425F.To assemble, fill each potato with shepherd's pie filling. Make sure each potato gets a good share of gravy plus filling. Then top with mashed potatoes by dolloping on top. Try to seal the edges as best as possible with the potatoes, but it doesn't have to be perfect.Sprinkle the tops with the remaining pecorino cheese.Bake for about 15 minutes until the tops of the potatoes start to brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt. Serve.