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A Fork and the Road: Dutch-Oven Cooking

Shepherd’s Pie

Jennifer Steedly Duncan
Nov 1, 2012
Photographers: Jennifer Steedly Duncan
Since we keep finding ourselves in unbelievably remote areas, we have discovered the joys of the traveling frozen-food truck, something I thought long gone from modern America but, it turns out, the trucks are alive and kicking. Some of our traveling group have now gone so far as to follow a truck down the road, lights flashing to get the harried driver to pull over so we could get ice cream. You never saw such a mad scramble, ransacking the truck for change and dollar bills, all for the joy of a gallon of ice cream.
Photo 2/6   |   Elliot, blissfully flinging bits of peel in every direction
At the intersection of the roads between the Very Large Array and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, we whooped with delight to see the little yellow truck parked at the lone gas station. We had run out of our fresh vegetables and meat and we were still a day from a town, so we joined the mad fray of little old ladies and dusty pickup trucks and left with ice cream (duh), as well as frozen peas, corn, and ground beef. That combined with shh, I can’t believe I’m going to confess this, but yes, combined with instant potatoes pulled from the nether regions of a relative’s cupboard, had us sitting down after a long day of travel to a very tasty meal. This very simple, very satisfying version of Shepherd’s pie followed by ice cream made a dinner everyone scarfed up.
Photo 3/6   |   Pie assembled and ready to finish cooking
Get Cooking!

I have two Dutch ovens, which makes this super simple to make. I just put the pot with the potatoes on the bottom, add coals to the top of the lid and add the second pot on top for the meat. A skillet for the meat on top of the Dutch oven also works just fine.

Brown the ground beef, adding salt and pepper or some steak seasoning if you have it. Drain any grease, leaving a tablespoon in the pan.
Remove the meat into a bowl. Sauté the onions in the reserved grease until tender, picking up any charred bits left behind from the meat. Just before you are ready to pull the onions off, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, then return the meat to the skillet and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.

When tender, drain the potatoes and add in the milk, butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. If your camp box is sans masher, improvise with a big fork; mashing it as much as you can, lumpy is fine for this.

Layer your meat in the bottom of your Dutch oven, then peas and corn. Spread the potatoes on top of the corn, sprinkle with a pinch of pepper and paprika; cover and return to a medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Shepherd’s Pie
  • 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered into 1/4 pieces
  • 1/3 cup of milk, cream, or half and half
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  • 2 cups of frozen corn
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika to finish


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