I often strive to provide inexpensive meals as we can all feel the pinch of lean financial times. At the firehouse, we Firefighters pool our money together to procure all things culinary including all our meals for our 24-hour shift. And like at home, we must maintain an active pantry, stocking up on all the essentials. So there are times when the money runs a little low. But as I’ve always looked to cut costs where possible, I never look to sacrifice taste.
Shepherd’s Pie has often been viewed as a peasant food, not a showcase meal, hearty though it may be. I approached this as a challenge, looking for ways to instill some added depth and flavor while using inexpensive staple items and different techniques. I tried to stay as honest to the original recipe but in an effort to keep costs down, I eliminated the ground lamb (that, and the fact that it is not readily available), finely shredded the carrots and used frozen peas. I like to break molds.
A few notes; when making the mashed potatoes, reserve salting them until after adding whatever cheese you decide to go with (some cheeses contain high levels of salt), the raw yoke that is added to the mashed potatoes is cooked in the oven so worry not, and beef broth can always be substituted for the red wine at the firehouse.
Ground Lamb (1 lbs.)
Carrots (2 large stalks shredded)
Onion (½ medium, shredded)
Peas (½ cups)
Garlic (2 cloves, shredded)
Red Wine (½ Cup, Pinot Noir)
Dried Porcini Mushrooms (1/2 Cup)
Worcestershire Sauce (2 Tbsp.)
Ketchup (2 Tbsp.)
Flour (¼ Cup)
Unsalted Butter (5 total; 3 Tbsp. cubed, 2 Tbsp. regular)
EVOO (2 Tbsp.)
Potatoes (2 large Yukon)
Aged White Sharp Cheddar Cheese (¾ Cup shredded)
Half-and-Half (½ Cup)
Pepper (white if you have it) and Salt
Cast Iron Skillet
6 x 4 ounces Cast Iron Ramekins OR Porcelain
Potato Ricer OR Fine Mesh Drain
Add the potatoes, salt and enough water to cover it all in a medium pot and place over high heat to bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain then add back to the hot pan. Begin breaking down the potatoes via ricer/mesh while adding the butter, half-and-half, ½ cup of Cheddar, egg yoke, white pepper and salt. Mix to combine and reserve.
Using the spice grinder, grind the dried mushrooms to a fine powder. Reserve.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the butter and EVOO into the cast iron pan over high heat. Add the lamb, season with salt and brown, 5-6 minutes. Once browned, add the flour. Mix to combine and continue to cook for an additional minute or until the raw flour taste is gone. Add the carrots and onion (grate them directly into the cast iron skillet), peas and garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Create a well in the middle of the pie and add the Worcestershire, powdered mushroom and ketchup then mix to combine. Add the wine/beef broth and cook until reduced. Test the filling at this time and add more liquid if necessary. Spoon the filling into the ramekins then add the potatoes by spooning small mounds to create a thin layer ensuring to cover the entirety of the ramekin. Shred additional cheese to lightly cover the top. Place in a pre-heated broiler set for high for 1-2 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Indulge.
*If time permits, consider adding small micro salad (Arugula or similar) to top or side with an emphasis on vinegar (i.e.- balsamic).