There are Cajun versions of shepherd's pie, chicken Dijon versions, even lentil-barley. This savory minced-meat rendition is made in the traditional Irish way, with ground lamb and mashed potatoes; parsley provides a touch o' green. The bold, almost gamey, lamb flavor predominates -- appropriately, because shepherd's pie is believed to have originated in the 18th century when peasant housewives in England and Scotland sought out ways to use lamb left over from Sunday dinner.
Although the recipe calls for only small quantities of butter and cheese, Kerrygold and other Irish varieties lend authenticity for St. Patrick's Day. Serve with a green vegetable.
Active time: 30 mins Total time: 1 hour
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon minced thyme
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons low-fat milk
- 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a medium bowl. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Stir in the onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Add the carrot and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring.
Return the meat to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15, or until the lamb is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened. Stir in the parsley and adjust the seasonings to taste.
Meanwhile, add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and mash. Add the butter, milk and the remaining salt and stir until smooth.
Using a large spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a medium casserole dish or 4 ovenproof 8-ounce ramekins. If there is any sauce left in the skillet, add it to the casserole or divide it among the individual ramekins. Drop spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes on top, then spread the potatoes across the meat mixture, forming peaks, and to the edges of the dish(es) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The pie(s) may be served immediately. For a crustier top, sprinkle with the cheese, if desired, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned and the cheese is bubbling.
Adapted from "The Irish Pub Cookbook" by Margaret M. Johnson (Chronicle Books, 2006).
Tested by Marcia Kramer, Kari Sonde and Jim Webster.
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