This dish was inspired by Top Chef Colorado's meat and potatoes challenge. It is what I consider to be American comfort food at its finest. It's the perfect dish for this time of year when it's cold outside and you're craving something supremely satisfying.
Technique tip: Ginger gives an Indian twist to the more classic English version. If you can't find lean ground beef and only have 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio, use a slotted spoon to transport the meat without excess grease into the baking dish.
Swap option: Ground turkey can be subbed for ground beef, or cooked lentils can be added at the end of the vegetable cooking process to make this dish vegetarian. For vegans, use olive oil instead of butter/milk in the potatoes and omit the cheese. To jazz up presentation, serve in individual ramekins instead of using a baking dish.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the water. Place the milk and butter in the saucepan with potatoes, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. With an electric hand mixer, puree until smooth. Set aside.2.
Preheat oven to 375°F.3.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and bell pepper, cooking 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 minute. Add the ground beef, and cook, covered, until browned, 4-5 minutes. Add thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 cup hot water, and add to the meat mixture, along with the Worcestershire sauce. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until sauce has thickened.4.
Spread meat mixture evenly in an 11- by 7-inch baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal and prevent the mixture from bubbling over. Top with shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.