I’m Irish with a little Greek thrown in. Mama was Irish all the way back and Daddy was Greek and Irish. So St. Patrick’s Day is important to me so I don’t want to make the American traditional St. Paddy’s dinner of corned beef and cabbage. You won’t find that on a St. Patrick’s Day table in Ireland. Instead, I’m going to make Shepherd’s Pie which I hope you’ll make part of your holiday tradition.
Nowadays people make Shepherd’s Pie with just a mashed potato topping but originally the mashed potatoes made a pie crust for the dish. That’s the way I make it. If you prefer, mash fewer potatoes and just top the pie with it.
As promised, I will share both success and failures with you whether it’s a cleaning issue or a cooking home run or disaster. While this recipe is actually quite good today was not the day for me to make it. I am disabled and my condition is very painful. On a bad day, which this was, I can barely stand or walk. Even sitting becomes too painful. I often need to take breaks in which I need to stretch out in bed.
And yet, knowing I was having a not great day, I decided to make Shepherd’s Pie. The level of stupidity for this decision was, on a scale of 1 – 10, a 12. Even Remy, the Sometimes Wonder Dog, rolled his eyes when he heard what I was making for dinner.
In the process of making this recipe I measured out only 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and had to hurriedly add another while cooking. I used a cup and a half of red wine instead of my usual half cup. I forgot the peas altogether and had to kind of tuck them in after I’d served out the portions. I normally pipe the mashed potato topping so the dish doesn’t seem like a bunch of mashed potatoes with some meat in the middle. Today I pulled out my piping bag and fought with the star tip for several minutes before gently returning it to its bag. Okay. I threw the darned thing and smeared mashed potatoes all over the top of the pie.
By this time I was so frustrated and in so much pain I (yes, I admit it) used my fingers to kind of pinch little potato peaks on the top of the pie. I then shoved it in the oven and retreated to my bed vowing to let the pie and the house burn to a crisp. I relented and pulled the somewhat traditional Shepherd’s Pie from the oven after the tips of the peaks had browned.
I’m sure, if you follow the recipe, your Shepherd’s Pie will turn out much better than mine.
Oh. I forgot the cheese for the potatoes, too.
The meat filling:
- 1 medium onion
- 1 large carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or ½ tsp. dried)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ tsp. dried)
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup peas
The mashed potatoes:
- 3 lbs. *floury potatoes
- 4 tablespoons Irish butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F
The Meat Filling:
- Dice the onion, carrot, and garlic finely. Set aside.
- Heat a pan until hot and add the olive oil, heating until shimmering.
- While oil is heating season the lamb with salt and pepper.
- Cook the lamb over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the onion, carrot, and garlic.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, the herbs, and the tomato paste.
- Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the red wine and reduce until most of the liquid has cooked out.
- Add the chicken stock and increase heat to high.
- Bring mixture to a boil and cook until the lamb mixture has thickened.
- Taste, adjusting salt and pepper if necessary.
The Mashed Potatoes:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, cut potatoes into chunks
- Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until tender.
- Drain potatoes then push through a sieve using the back of a wooden spoon or put potatoes through potato ricer.
- Add the egg yolks, butter, and milk and mix until smooth.
- Add parmesan cheese and mix until well-incorporated.
Assembling the Shepherd’s Pie:
- Pat most of the mashed potatoes into the bottom and up the sides of an oven-proof casserole dish, reserving some for top of pie.
- Evenly distribute the lamb mixture over the mashed potatoes.
- Using a piping bag with a star tip, pipe the remaining mashed potatoes over the potatoes.
- Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the mashed potato stars are golden brown.
In America, most potatoes are floury. This means they’re best suited for baking and mashing. If you’re unsure if your potatoes are floury you can mix one part salt to eleven parts water and add one of your potatoes. A floury potato will almost always sink while a waxy one will float.