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
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 350*.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Assemble and broil pie. Preheat broiler.
- 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.
- 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