Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd’s Pie

March 16, 2018

 

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Ahhh…Shepherd’s Pie. Comfort food at its finest. There are many many versions of this dish. Today I am bringing you one from Chef Cathal Armstrong’s cookbook My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve. Chef Armstrong, originally from Dublin Ireland, has a culinary empire here in Northern Virginia  which includes Restaurant Eve, the Majestic Cafe, two branches of Eamonn’s – A Dublin Chipper, PX cocktail lounge and Society Fair a gourmet emporium and wine bar. He is an internationally recognized four-star chef and leader in the sustainable food movement which he attributes firmly to his Irish upbringing. Chef Armstrong has brought forth this cookbook which contains a collection of family recipes and Irish inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve.

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He makes his version of Shepherd’s Pie with a rich stew of diced lamb shoulder and fresh vegetables. It also has double potatoes – Potatoes in the stew and creamy mashed potatoes topping it. That is my kind of dish! I’m one of those folks that seriously considers ordering a baked potato and french fries for my two sides in a restaurant when given a choice. So of course I love the abundance of spuds in this Shepherd’s Pie.

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Interestingly, there is some controversy as to where this dish originated. Chef Armstrong says that it is an interpretation of a French dish called hachis parmentier. Others have claimed it has an English pedigree. No matter where it started, I think you can most assuredly find a version of this casserole in any Irish Pub you might visit. One of the great things about Shepherd’s Pie is that you can make it in stages. The stew part can be made 2 days prior to when you would like to serve it. Then on the day of your dinner all you need to do is make up the mashed potatoes, pipe them over the pie and then bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

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Way back when, the first year that I actually posted St. Patrick’s Day recipes on this blog, I shared Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Shepherd’s Pie, which is a very different dish, so I don’t feel guilty at all blogging about it again. The more the merrier I say. Chef Ramsay uses minced lamb rather than diced lamb shoulder and he advocates grating the carrots and onions rather than chopping them. And his version isn’t really a stew.

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Gordon Ramsay’s Shepherd’s Pie

Which one do I like better? Difficult to say as they are so different from one another. The Husband has weighed in and picked Chef Armstrong’s version as the victor. Me…I’m not so sure. Again, they are very different. I can say without hesitation, that I would be quite happy presented with either one at a St. Patrick’s Day feast. If you’re expecting a crowd for your festivities this year, perhaps you could make both versions and hold a little competition of your own. I’m sure your guests would be thrilled!

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Chef Cathal Armstrong's Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve

Ingredients:

For the Stew:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder, trimmed of all fat and sinew, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups lamb stock or store-bought beef broth
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (2 cups)
  • 2 large fresh bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

For the Mashed Potatoes:

  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Brown the lamb: Pat the lamb cubes dry on all sides with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. In a large slope-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Distribute the meat evenly in the bottom of the pan without crowding it and don’t disturb it for several minutes. If you stir the cubes too soon, they will release water and the meat will boil instead of browning. After 3 or 4 minutes, turn the cubes over and brown them on the other side for another 3 or 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Sweat the vegetables: Add the onion, carrots and celery, stirring with a flat-edged wooden spatula. As the vegetables cook, water will release and deglaze the pan. Use the spatula to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes. They should be translucent but still bit firm.

Cook the stew: Stir in the flour and allow it to brown lightly for about 2 minutes. Add the lamb stock, continuing to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Return the meat and its collected juices to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the stew to an 8 – cup baking dish. ( 9 x 9 or 11×7 would work well).

Boil the Potatoes for mashing: Place the quartered potatoes and salt in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer uncovered until cooked through, about 40 minutes. To tell if they are cooked, take a piece out and cut it in half to see if it’s soft in the center.

While the potatoes are cooking, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mash the potatoes: Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and stir them over the heat for a coupled of minutes. This ensures that they are dry. Rice the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks, butter and cream, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Work quickly while the potatoes are hot so they don’t become gummy and starchy. Adjust the salt seasoning to taste and allow the potatoes to cool.

Top the pie: First a large pastry bag with a large star tip. Spoon the mashed potatoes into the bag. Moving in one direction, pipe large rosettes of potatoes over the lamb mixture, in neat rows or around the perimeter of baking dish. Go over your work and pipe rosettes wherever you see any holes-you want to create a good seal. Alternatively, you can dollop the potatoes over the stew and spread them with a spatula to seal it.

Bake the Pie: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set the pie on it and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely browned and filling is bubbling. Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd Pie is brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd Pie:

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong, David Hagedorn

Scanpan Evolution Sunday Pan with Lid – I absolutely love this pan! Cooked the stew in it with no problem.

Le Creuset Stoneware 10.5 x 7″ Baking Dish

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Potato Ricer

 

 

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Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew)

March 12, 2017

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So I know I’ve been all about my mate Theresa’s gorgeous debut cookbook: Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen. And a lovely book it is. However, that is not to say that there aren’t other lovely cookbooks out there…and another one I’m all about is: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn.

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I have not had the pleasure of meeting Chef Armstrong, but I am certainly a big fan. Chef Cathal Armstrong, originally from Dublin Ireland, has a culinary empire here in Northern Virginia  which includes Restaurant Eve, the Majestic Cafe, two branches of Eamonn’s – A Dublin Chipper, PX cocktail lounge and Society Fair a gourmet emporium and wine bar. He is an internationally recognized four-star chef and leader in the sustainable food movement which he attributes firmly to his Irish upbringing. Chef Armstrong has brought forth this cookbook which contains a collection of family recipes and Irish inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve. It is from this cookbook that I take this recipe for Chicken Casserole, which he fondly calls “President Obama Stew”. According to Chef Armstrong, it seems that on Saturday October 9th of 2011, while taking a little time off of work and preparing his mother’s chicken casserole for a family dinner, he received an unexpected call from his restaurant manager at Restaurant Eve. The Obamas were coming for dinner. And it wasn’t just any old dinner for them, that night they would be celebrating their nineteenth wedding anniversary. Well, needless to say, the family chicken casserole was forgotten as he rushed back in to the restaurant. The recipe I give you today is that casserole. Now I would definitely be a bit remiss if I told you that i wasn’t a little bit sorry that the Obamas didn’t dine on this casserole. Nevertheless, this is an amazing dish!

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Cooked low and slow, this chicken is so savory, so succulent and so all around spectacular it is definitely elevated from a mere casserole rating. Now I will admit, I did make a couple of wee changes. The Chef does call for the use of an entire cut up chicken. I did decide to go with solely chicken thighs – less choice but better for consistency in cooking. That being said, when I cook this again- oh and I will – I will use skinless boneless thighs and will remove the bones and shred the chicken once the casserole is cooked through. But to each his own. I also LOVE mushrooms and decided to throw in some portobello mushrooms. I hope the Chef will forgive my adaptations. I will tell you this casserole, or stew even, is brilliant all on its own – so savory, thick and hearty with just the right amount of spice (who would’ve known 20 cloves of garlic was just the right amount…) but it is absolutely amazing when served over mashed potatoes.

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A feast worthy of St. Patrick himself I tell you! I assure you folks will be over the moon if you serve up this feast on St. Patrick’s Day. Heck with the 20 cloves of garlic in this baby, you wouldn’t go wrong serving this up on Halloween – t’would definitely keep the vampires at bay! Though seriously, if you want to treat yourself to some amazing Irish recipes, beautiful photography and various cooking tips in general, invest in a copy of Chef Armstrong’s My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve.

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Chef Armstrong's Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland & Restaurant Eve” by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 1/2 pound ) chicken – cut into 14 pieces – (or….I just used 3 1/2 lbs of chicken thighs)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, very coarsely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch coins
  • 6 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 – inch dice
  • 8 oz. portobello mushrooms, washed and sliced (*optional – my addition)
  • 20 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped (yup…not a misprint….20!)
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), coarsely chopped, and their juices
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 large fresh bay leaves
  • 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped, with seeds
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Leaves from 1 large bunch fresh bails (1 cup loosely packed) coarsely chopped.

Directions:

If the chicken you purchase is not already cut up into pieces, then cut your chicken in 14 pieces, making 6 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 4 wing joints. (Or just use a big old package of thighs – this is per me-not Chef Armstrong). Season them well with salt.

Brown the chicken in a large pan over high heat. Arrange all of the chicken evenly in the pan skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown. The pieces should release easily from the bottom of the pan; if they don’t , let them brown longer until they don Transfer the pieces to a flameproof casserole, arranging them skin side up. ( I used my largest Le Creuset dutch oven.)

Add the onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms (if you are adding them) to the sauté pan, stirring to combine them. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes until they are translucent but still bit firm. As they cook and water releases from them, use a flat edged wooden spatula to deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the garlic (seriously…don’t be scared- use all 20 cloves – the stew will taste amazing and somehow not over garlic-y) and then the tomatoes and flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, serrano chile, chicken stock, thyme and rosemary.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the casserole. Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer slowly for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are very tender. Remove the stew from he heat. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you like. (Truth be told – here is where I would recommend removing the chicken pieces from the stew. Shred the chicken meat from the bones and stir the meat back into the stew mixture.) Stir in the basil leaves at the last second before driving. The stew can be made a day before and gently reheated on the stove or in a 300°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

I have served this chicken casserole all on its own or over mashed potatoes and I gotta say – Mashed Potatoes are the way to go. I am sure it would also be good over rice, but again go with the Mashed Potatoes for the win!

Enjoy!

Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew):

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Oval Dutch oven – 8 quart

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Potato Ricer – The key to perfect unbelievably creamy – dare I say dreamy – mashed potatoes every single time. Well, this and a good amount of butter and cream…

 


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