The best shepherd’s pies start with a languorously simmered lamb stew, redolent with rosemary and a hint of garlic. Capped with creamy mashed potatoes, the topping becomes golden brown in the oven. If you have trouble finding boneless lamb shoulder, look for it at butcher shops that cater to Mediterranean cooks.
- 2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 8 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 3 1/3 cups beef stock or broth
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
- 3 lbs. baking potatoes
- About 1/3 cup heavy cream, warmed
- 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
Trim the lamb of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches to avoid crowding, add the lamb cubes and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
Add 4 Tbs. of the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the flour, and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock and wine and then the rosemary. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Return the lamb to the Dutch oven, cover, place in the oven, and cook until the lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
About 30 minutes before the lamb is ready, preheat an oven to 325°F. Oil six 2-cup ovenproof soup crocks or a 3-quart baking dish. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover, cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well. Return the potatoes to the pan and stir over medium-low heat for 2 minutes to evaporate the excess moisture. Cut 3 Tbs. of the butter into pieces and add to the potatoes. Using a handheld mixer or a potato masher, whip or mash the potatoes while adding enough cream to create a smooth mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Season the lamb mixture with salt and pepper, stir in the peas and pour into the prepared baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into bits and use to dot the top. Bake until the top is lightly tinged with brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, then serve hot. Serves 6.
Variation: For rancher’s pie, substitute 2 lbs. boneless beef chuck for the lamb, and fresh thyme for the rosemary. For an extra-rich topping, whip 6 oz. of fresh, rindless goat cheese into the potatoes.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).