Elk and mushroom cottage pie
Celebrate Pi Day (or any day) with this mashed potato-crusted savory pie
DWR Conservation Outreach Section
True story: I make extra mashed potatoes just so I have enough leftovers on hand to make this family favorite one-pot meal. What sets a traditional shepherd's pie apart from a cottage pie is the choice of meat used. Shepherd's pies contain lamb, but a cottage pie can be made with beef, venison or in this case, ground elk.
Elk and mushroom cottage pie
- 1 pound ground elk (or mule deer)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or bacon fat
- 8 ounces portobello or white mushrooms, quartered
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (no need to thaw)
- 1¾ cups beef or game stock
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 generous pinch each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 cups (approximately) prepared mashed potatoes
- 1 heaping tablespoon prepared horseradish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In an oven-proof saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the ground elk, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon as you go. The elk that I used for this recipe had a bit of beef fat mixed into the grind, but if yours is all lean you may want to add a bit of cooking oil or bacon fat to the initial sauté to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.
When the meat is evenly browned, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside in a bowl.
To the same pan over medium heat, add the olive oil (or bacon fat) and the mushrooms. Stirring frequently, sauté the mushrooms until they are just starting to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the onion and carrots, adding a bit more oil if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking.
Sauté for another 8–10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened slightly. Season with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.
Add the fresh or frozen peas, reserved cooked elk and the stock. Stir until well combined, and bring the liquid to a low boil.
In a small bowl or jar, mix together the cornstarch and milk until smooth. Pour this mixture evenly over the elk and vegetables, and immediately stir well to evenly distribute all ingredients. The sauce should thicken slightly within a minute or so. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner to cool very slightly.
To the leftover mashed potatoes, add the horseradish and a little bit of milk if the potatoes are very stiff. Stir well to combine, and then drop the mashed potatoes by large spoonfuls evenly over the top of the elk mixture. Gently smooth out the potatoes with the back of a spoon to cover the entire surface.
Place the pan in the top one-third of the preheated 400-degree oven. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the potato-crust top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around the edges. Enjoy!