Rich, warm, and comforting, this Stout-Braised Short Rib Cottage Pie is an indulgent twist on the classic English casserole. A great alternative to corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day!
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What is Cottage Pie?
Cottage pie is a crustless English meat pie. It’s traditionally made with ground (minced) beef, baked in a brown gravy, with a layer of mashed potatoes on top. The filling often also contains vegetables, like onions, carrots, and peas.
Sometimes, the term “cottage pie” is used synonymously with “shepherd’s pie.” While both dishes are savory meat pies with similar preparations, technically speaking, “shepherd’s pie” is made with lamb, and “cottage pie” is made with beef.
Both pies are cozy, hearty, and comforting. A cottage pie or shepherd’s pie is the perfect meal to warm up with on a cold winter’s night!
Making Cottage Pie with Short Ribs
While ground beef is traditional for cottage pie filling, I like to make a twist using shredded beef short ribs. The first time I made it was back in 2012, after trying a recipe from Martha Stewart for Stout-Braised Short Rib Pot Pies.
The concept was good, but we really wanted some vegetables with the beef, and felt that the short rib filling could handle a heartier topping than the potpie recipe offered. So, I decided to turn it into a cottage pie.
The Beef Filling
I use my Beer Braised Short Ribs for the filling. The recipe makes a really luscious stout-infused gravy that works well for cottage pie.
You can either pop the ribs in the oven for an all-day braise (my favorite method), or pressure cook them in the Instant Pot. Directions for both are included in the short rib post.
To the beef, I add sautéed carrots, cremini mushrooms, sweet cippollini onions, and peas. We love the sweet, earthy vegetables with the buttery beef and light bitter notes in the stout gravy.
The Potato Topping
Since it was around St. Patrick’s Day the first time I made short rib cottage pie, I decided to use Dubliner cheese in my Duchess Potatoes recipe for the topping. The cheesy, buttery potatoes turned out to be the perfect complement to the short ribs and stout gravy.
Dubliner Cheese is an aged cow’s milk cheese from Ireland. Its flavor is balanced between nutty, sharp, and a little bit sweet. While Dubliner has a distinctive flavor, if you can’t source it, substitute aged white cheddar.
I like to use a potato ricer to make the Duchess potatoes as smooth as possible. Also, if you have Irish butter on hand, the topping will be exceptionally luscious. (I keep it in my fridge year round, not just at St. Patricks Day!)
For a pretty presentation, use a pastry bag with a large star tip to pipe swirls of potatoes on top of the baking dish. The potato mixture will be stiff, so it’s well-suited to piping. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can make swirls in the potatoes with the tines of a fork.
Tips for Assembling the Pie
Being completely transparent: this recipe is a process. But, it’s a delicious cottage pie that’s worth the effort. Here are some of my tips for streamlining the process and getting the best results:
1. I usually braise the short ribs a day in advance and reheat them in the braising liquid before making the gravy (instructions in the short rib recipe post).
That said, while you’ll still need several hours, the cottage pie is more “doable” in one day if you’re cooking the short ribs in the Instant Pot instead of the low-and-slow oven braise.
2. Be sure to skim/de-fat the braising liquid well before making the gravy. Also, remove any excess fat from the short ribs when you’re shredding the meat. You want the pie to be rich, but not overly fatty.
3. I like to saute the veggies for the filling while I’m boiling the potatoes for the topping. That way, the filling is ready to go when I start mixing the potatoes.
4. Be sure to cover the filling completely with potatoes. You want to “seal” the filling into the baking dish, particularly around the edges.
5. Despite your best sealing efforts, some of the filling will likely bubble out of the cottage pie. Place your baking dish on a foil-lined sheet pan so it doesn’t make a mess in the oven.
Serving Your Short Rib Cottage Pie
Once the cottage pie comes out of the oven, it’ll need to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. I know how difficult it is to not dive right in with your fork (this recipe smells so good cooking!). The gravy will be very hot and bubbly, and it needs a little time to settle back into the filling.
I like to sprinkle the top with herbs, like chopped parsley, snipped chives, or thyme leaves right before serving. It brings a pop of freshness to a very earthy and rich dish.
Pour yourself a glass of stout and dinner is served!
More of our Favorite St. Patrick’s Day Recipes:
- Irish American Soda Bread
- Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage (viral recipe on social media!)
- Roasted Cabbage Wedges
- Beer Braised Corned Beef with Whiskey-Mustard Glaze
Stout-Braised Short Rib Cottage Pie
- 1 recipe Stout Beer Braised Short Ribs
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms , cleaned, trimmed, and quartered (or halved if small)
- 8 ounces cippolini or pearl onions , peeled and halved if large
- 1-1/2 cups diced carrots (1/2-inch dice)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
To make the potato topping
- 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes , peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup milk or half and half
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
- 1-3/4 cup shredded Dubliner or sharp white cheddar cheese , divided
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper , to taste
- 3 large egg yolks
To assemble the cottage pie
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Prep the Short Ribs
- Braise the short ribs following the linked recipe. When cool enough to handle, remove bones from the short ribs and discard. Shred meat using two forks, discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle. You should have about 3-1/2 cups of meat.
- Follow the instructions in the short rib recipe to defat and reduce the braising liquid to 2-1/2 cups. Thicken the gravy by mixing together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cool water in a small bowl (a "slurry"). Stir the slurry into to the simmering liquid a little at a time, letting it bubble and thicken, until a rich gravy forms that coats the back of a spoon.
Prep the vegetables
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until released liquid is evaporated and mushrooms are lightly-browned. Set aside.
- Heat an additional tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Sauté carrots and cippolini onions with a few pinches each of salt and pepper until vegetables are just crisp-tender and lightly-golden on the edges.
Make the potato topping
- Boil cubed potatoes in lightly-salted water until soft (or cook in an electric pressure cooker according to your manufacturer's directions). Drain well and mash, or press through a potato ricer, into a large bowl.
- Stir in melted butter, 1-1/2 cups shredded cheese, milk/half and half, and salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, depending on the saltiness of the cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Add egg yolks and stir until smooth. Keep warm until ready to use.
Make the Cottage Pie
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add the shredded short rib meat to the gravy. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms, carrots, onions, frozen peas, and thyme leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the filling to a 3-quart oval baking dish, leaving enough room on top for the potatoes.
- Spoon potatoes onto cottage pie filling, or pipe them with a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Be sure to "seal" the edges of the dish with potatoes to help keep the gravy from bubbling over. If you used a spoon instead of piping, make decorative swirls in the potatoes with a fork. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheese.
- Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet (important: the pie will likely bubble over, despite your best sealing efforts!). Bake 35-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes are golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Originally published March 14, 2014 and updated in 2020 with new photos.