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Lee’s Kitchen: Shepherd's pie an American staple

My husband’s parents and my own parents had a lot in common. Doug’s dad and mine were born on the same day and year, July 1, 1905. Our mothers were born on the same year. Each of our parents had two children, a boy first then a girl. They all worked full-time. They lived in New York state, Doug’s in Rochester, mine in Troy. They didn’t meet until we married. Until they died, they liked each other.

Our mothers had something else in common. Neither of them enjoyed cooking. When Doug and I met (he lived in New York City while I was in Rochester), I didn’t know how to cook, but I loved him so I learned to cook. He never complained about my cooking, but he didn’t eat shepherd’s pie, possibly because his Michigan grandfather was a sheep farmer and his knowledge of lamb was mutton. Now alone, I make shepherd’s pie with leftover lamb. Today I am thawing a lamb shoulder; tonight will be lamb for dinner. Tomorrow I will make enough shepherd’s pie for a couple more nights.

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: serves 8 to 10

Olive oil

1 medium to large onion, diced

10 to 12 small- to medium-sized carrots, diced

3 pounds lamb chunks (beef is okay)*

5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 stick of butter

One-half cup milk (2 percent is fine)

1 14 ½ can diced tomatoes

Around 1 cup (as needed) stock (I use chicken stock)

1 pound each frozen tiny peas and corn (green beans could be nice, too)

grated cheese (optional)

paprika (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste, throughout the cooking

In a large skillet (or a Le Creuset Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and carrots are somewhat soft. Add salt and pepper to taste; remove vegetables from the skillet onto a plate. Add a bit more olive oil and put lamb into the same skillet; cook until meat is no longer pink. You may remove some of the fat that is rendered.

In the meantime, put potatoes into a good-sized pot, add water and cook until potatoes are very soft. Drain potato water and place potatoes back on the cooktop. Mash the potatoes with butter and milk, Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Into the cooked lamb, add back the onions and carrots, the diced tomatoes, frozen peas and corn. Bring to a summer, adding enough stock so the mixture is not too dry. Again, season to taste.

In a large oven-proof casserole (large enough to hold veggies and lamb topped with potatoes), pour in the mixture and even it out. Toss grated cheese over mixture, if using. Add mashed potatoes and carefully cover the mixture, sealing all around. Heat the “pie” in a preheated 350 degree oven until hot,. If you want a little color, add a bit of paprika to the top before putting it in the oven. If you really like more cheese, grated some more to the top about 15 minutes before it is ready to remove from the oven.

Shepherd’s pie can be made beforehand and refrigerate. To serve it hot, heat oven to 350 degrees and place casserole, covered, into oven for about 30 minutes. Remove cover, then heat for another 25 minutes, until mashed potatoes are a bit crusty.

*I used leftover lamb. If you do, you do not have to cook the lamb again.

Lee White lives in Groton and can be reached at leeawhite@aol.com.

 

 

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