Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Our last posting in the latest cooking series is shepherd's pie (at this point, after having the Commissary be active for several straight days, I felt the need to head out and let someone else prepare a few meals for us). My first experience with shepherd's pie goes back to watching my Canadian friend Darcy throw a basic version together in his (very) bachelor pad in Dallas about 15 years ago - instant potatoes, ground beef, canned vegetables, and the like, probably comfort food from his hometown on the prairies of Saskatchewan (it didn't look very appetizing). The original version can be traced back to the 19th Century British Isles, a stick-to-your-ribs, toiling-in-the-fields food made from whatever leftovers might be on hand.

My recipe comes straight out of Men's Journal and is slightly more upscale, but still maintains the rustic nature of the original. Lamb is the stand-in for beef - the roast cut is the meatiest if you can find it, but I discovered by accident that slightly fatter cuts such as the breast rib meat (which is heavily marbled) adds quite a bit of flavor to it (makes it less healthy, however). I also threw in a little extra fresh rosemary I had on hand from making spare ribs and that helped spice it up a bit as well. All in all, it's not the house's favorite recipe, but it will warm you up on a cold day and it keeps great in the refrigerator for leftovers.

1. Chop 2 lbs. of lamb into bite-size chunks. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, brown the lamb in 2 oz. of extra-virgin olive oil. Remove lamb from the pot.

2. Peel and dice 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips, and 1 turnip. Put them in the pot and cook until they start to soften. Stir in 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, scraping the lamb drippings from the bottom of the pot.

3. Return the lamb to the pot. Pour in 2 Tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup beer, then reduce the liquid by a quarter.

4. Add 1 cup lamb stock or low-sodium chicken broth, 2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 45 minutes. Top with your favorite mashed potatoes and bake in a preheated 375F oven until golden brown (about 20 minutes).

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