Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

This is a dish my family would occasionally have when I was growing up. Basically, we would make it on the rare occasion of having some leftover roast meat of some type. I particularly like it with lamb, as I have described it here, and that is the traditional meat to use, but any roasted meat will do. I have recently learned that in England and Australia the dish is frequently called cottage pie, but in the US it’s shepherd’s pie. Not sure about other empire-derived countries. Basically, it is a meat and root-vegetable casserole topped with mashed potatoes and subsequently roasted. In my book, the trick is in the seasoning, especially properly seasoning the mashed potatoes, which I achieve by adding garlic-scape pesto to the mash. "What's garlic scape pesto?" you may ask. That'll be the topic of another post to the blog.

Ingredients (makes about 10 servings):

   3½ pounds organic yellow potatoes
   ¼ pound butter
   3 Tbs garlic pesto

   2 Tbs olive oil
   3 cups leftover roast free-range lamb, cubed to ¾ inch
   1½ lbs organic carrots, diced
   1½ lbs organic parsnips, diced
   1 cup vegetable stock
   1 medium organic onion, diced
   1 small head organic garlic, cloves peeled and minced
   salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes to approximate 1-inch cubes. Place the potatoes in an 8-quart pot and rinse twice with fresh water, then cover with fresh water and bring to a boil on a hot burner. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes cook, sauté the meat in the olive
oil, then remove to a holding dish. Place the diced carrots and parsnips and the minced garlic in the same pan, season with salt and pepper, add ½ cup water, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, then transfer the steamed vegetables to large oiled baking dishes. Top with the raw onions and then the meat.

By now the potatoes are done, so drain them through a colander, then return them to the pot, add the butter and pesto. Cover for a few minutes to let the butter melt, then mash with a potato masher until well mixed. Spoon and spread potatoes to almost completely cover the vegetables, leaving peaks and spikes that will eventually brown in the oven. Distribute the vegetable stock evenly among the dishes by pouring into the uncovered portion of the vegetables, then seal the cap with the final spoonful of potatoes.

Place the casserole in a 350 F oven for 30-45 minutes. Remove and serve individual portions in bowls to prevent sauce from traveling around the plate.

It is hard to not go back for seconds with this dish. But if you have made a large enough batch, you will have leftovers that store well in the fridge or can be frozen in serving-sized portions to reheat at a later date. Good stuff, Maynard.

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