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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Chef Cathal Armstrong's Shepherd's Pie
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
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.
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:
Scanpan Evolution Sunday Pan with Lid – I absolutely love this pan! Cooked the stew in it with no problem.