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Shepherd’s pie carries spirit of the Irish

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A shepherd’s pie in New York, from a recipe by Katie Workman.

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, Irish dishes seem like the right thing to do. (I don’t believe I have a drop of Irish blood in me, but that doesn’t stop me from getting caught up in the spirit.) Observing the holidays of other countries is a good excuse to dive into their cuisine.

What’s the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie? Shepherd’s Pie contains lamb and is an Irish specialty. Cottage Pie is English and contains beef. Both have mashed potatoes on top, and occasionally on the bottom as well.

This version of Shepherd’s Pie calls for ground lamb, readily available in most supermarkets. If you have a tight relationship with your butcher, ask for it to be ground fresh.

This pie was actually created as a way to use up leftover lamb, probably over a century ago. It’s completely worth making even without leftover lamb, so let’s proceed with our ground-meat version.

But do think of this recipe any time you make a roast of lamb, whether it’s a shoulder or leg or loin. Try hard to make sure there are leftovers, and then dice them finely and use them in this comfort-food pot pie.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

By Katie Workman

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and halved
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped fennel
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add water to cover. Add salt, then place over high heat until water simmers. Lower heat to medium-high and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Add lamb and cook, stirring frequently to break up meat, until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Turn into a colander and wipe out the skillet.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the same skillet over medium- high. Add onion, carrots, fennel, garlic and thyme; saute 4 to 5 minutes until vegetables are lightly golden and tender.

Add flour and stir to coat vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in lamb, 1/2 cup of the milk and the broth; cook until mixture comes to a simmer (the liquid will absorb quickly into the lamb), stirring occasionally.

Stir in corn and peas; season with salt and pepper. Add Worcestershire sauce and continue cooking until everything is well combined and hot, about 3 minutes. Turn mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Drain cooked potatoes and mash them.

In saucepan used to cook potatoes, heat remaining 1/2 cup milk and remaining 2 tablespoons butter until barely simmering. Add potatoes. Stir in cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated.

Spread mashed potatoes evenly over lamb mixture in pie pan. Bake 15 minutes, until top is set and a bit colored. (For more browning, run under broiler.) Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 643 calories, 41 g total fat, 16 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 838 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 31 g protein.

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