Why This Recipe Works
The traditional version of this dish of meat and gravy topped with mashed potatoes is time-consuming to make, and the end product is a bit heavy for modern palates. We streamlined the process by building and serving the pie in one skillet and by using lean ground beef rather than braised chunks of meat. To keep the meat tender, we treated it with baking soda, which raised the pH and kept the proteins from bonding too tightly, and we simmered the meat in the gravy rather than seared it. To replace the browned meat flavors that usually form the basis of the sauce, we sautéed the onions, mushrooms, and tomato paste in the skillet until quite dark, and then we deglazed the pan with fortified wine.