If you've never had Shepherd's Pie, lemme tell you, you need to get down with those Irish roots deep in your soul and get on it. I look forward to March every year because I know I'll be chowin' down on some of this goodness.
The base of the Shepherd's Pie is nothing short of the epitome of comfort food. Lamb, carrots, and peas all nestled into a deliciously savory gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. What could possibly be wrong with that? Bring on the comfy pants and a glass of cabernet.
If you're scared about cooking with ground lamb, don't be. It's so unbelievably tender and delicious in this dish. It takes on a great, authentic Irish flavor, so I promise, you won't feel like you're eating Mary's Little Lamb.
It's not traditional to throw cheese into the mashed potatoes that make up the "crust" of the pie, but I did it anyway. I'm such a rebel like that. I even used Irish cheddar to try and feel a little more authentic.
I mean, how could cheese ever be a bad idea?
I broiled the pie [this picture is right before I did that] right before serving for two reasons:
1) I finished making the whole caboodle about an hour before we could eat (#bedtimeforthebaby). I left the already baked pie in the oven and just turned off the heat to let it stay warm. The broiler brought the temp right back to piping hot in no time.
2) I love the way the potatoes got a bit crispier after they were under the broiler. It added a great texture to the dish.
All good things here - they balance out the cheese.
I used the recipe I have for mashed potatoes as the beginning of the potato part. The one thing I always do now when making "mashed potatoes" is that I don't mash them. I use a ricer instead so they come out lighter and fluffier because you don't release as much starch in that process as you do when you mash them.
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
3 oz. Irish cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbs. EVOO
1 yellow onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbs. tomato paste
3 tbs. flour
1 tbs. Worcestershire
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup beef stock
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1”. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but not saturated or crumbly, 20–25 minutes (boiling will lead to waterlogged pieces). Drain potatoes. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes while they are still hot back into the pot you cooked them in. Season to taste with S&P and add the 2 tbs. unsalted butter and milk. Fold in the Irish cheddar while the potatoes are still warm. Set aside and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 375.
While the potatoes are cooking, in a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until glistening. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, stirring occasionally (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute), stirring occasionally. Add the ground lamb, crumbling to break the pieces into smaller bits. Sprinkle the paprika over the lamb mixture. Cook until the lamb is browned, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
Make a little hole in the middle of the lamb mixture and put the tomato paste inside of it. Brown the tomato paste for just a minute until it’s fragrant, stirring occasionally. Stir the tomato paste into the whole mixture. Sprinkle the flour over the whole thing and stir to combine. Add the Worcestershire, herbs, and beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low. Stir in the peas, cover, and allow to cook until the mixture thickens (about 15 minutes). Season with S&P.
Spread the potatoes evenly on top of the lamb mixture and place, uncovered, in the oven. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes until the potatoes start to brown.
Turn on the broiler and broil for just about 1 minute until the potatoes get golden-brown on top. Garnish with parsley. Serve with Worcestershire.
To make ahead
Assemble the whole pie and keep in a 175 degree oven until you’re ready to serve. Heat to 375 for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are browned on top.