SHEPHERD’S PIE (for six)


“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that a dish called shepherd’s pie would have lamb in it.  Nor do you need to be a food historian to deduce that this homely but immensely beloved ‘pie’ in which mashed potatoes top the lamb below could not have arisen until potatoes had become a staple in Britain in the early nineteenth century.  In fact, shepherd’s pie in its modern form — mashed potatoes on top of ground lamb — came along later in the century, after the invention of meat grinders.”   Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon

For the lamb and vegetable filling:

10 ounces pearl onions

4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only) cut into ½ inch thick slices

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

½ cup dry white wine

1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup beef broth

1 cup water

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

5 carrots, cut diagonally into 1/3 inch thick slices

2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces

For the mashed potato topping:

2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Prepare filling. Blanch onions in a 2 to 3 quart pot of boiling salted water 1 minute, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking.  Drain onions and peel, trimming root ends with a paring knife.  Wash leek slices in a bowl of water. Agitating them, then lift out and drain in a medium mesh sieve.
  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  1. Pat lamb dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Put lamb and 3 tablespoons flour into a sealable plastic bag and shake to coat lamb.
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a wide 3-quart heavy flameproof casserole or cazuela (about 2 inches deep; not glass) over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown half of lamb, turning, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Transfer browned lamb and garlic to a plate with a slotted spoon and repeat with remaining lamb and tablespoon garlic (do not add more butter, but if pot is too dry and begins to burn, add a splash of vegetable oil).
  1. Add wine to casserole dish and deglaze by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute, then stir in tomato paste and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add broth, water, thyme, browned lamb with any juices that have accumulated on the plate, onions, leeks, carrots, turnips, remaining teaspoon salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer over moderately high heart, then remove from heat.
  1. Cover dish with lid or foil and braise lamb and vegetables in middle of oven, stirring once or twice, until lamb is tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Make topping while filling cooks. Peel and quarter the potatoes.  Cover potatoes with salted cold water by 1 inch on a 4 quart heavy pot, then simmer, uncovered, until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Drain in a colander.
  1. Bring cream, milk and butter to a simmer in same pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted, then remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Force hot potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with a medium disk into hot cream mixture and stir gently to combine.  Keep warm, covered.
  1. Assemble and broil pie. Preheat broiler.
  1. Make a beurre manie by stirring together remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons butter and remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl to form a paste. Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid from casserole dish into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Whisk in beurre manie, then simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Gently stir sauce into lamb and vegetables.
  1. Spoon potatoes over lamb and vegetables and spread evenly with a fork, making a pattern with tines. Broil about 3 inches from heat until top is golden, about 3 minutes.

NOTE:  If the occasion calls for a more formal presentation, divide filling among individual serving dishes before topping with potatoes and broiling.  Lamb filling (without topping) can be made 1 day ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled, covered.  Bring to a simmer over low heat before topping with warm potatoes and broiling.



from Gourmet Magazine, December, 2002

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