They say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. This year, March came in like a lamb…a very chilly lamb, but a lamb all the same. The thermometer may have registered a cool 23 degrees and the ground is still covered in white, but the sun was shining and the air was calm; a rare occurrence ’round here during the winter. I sense that spring is just around the corner. But that might just be wishful thinking!
In honor of our lamb of a first day of March, it seemed appropriate to make a nice shepherd’s pie for dinner; a perfect comfort meal for a sunny, late winter day. Traditionally, shepherd’s pie is made by layering ground lamb, in a seasoned sauce, with vegetables and a layer of mashed potatoes; a well-balanced meal in a baking dish! This Irish-inspired dish makes a perfect one-dish meal any night of the week or would make a fantastic substitute for corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day!
Many variations of shepherd’s pie call for ground beef as a substitute for lamb. Technically, that wouldn’t be a shepherd’s pie at all, but rather a cottage pie. Shepherd’s herd sheep; not cattle. And shepherd’s pie is made with lamb; not beef. If your grocery store does not regularly carry ground lamb, you have a few options. First, try asking at the butcher counter to see if they would grind a lamb shoulder for you. Many accommodating butchers would be happy to do this for you. If you’ve got a KitchenAid mixer with a food grinder attachment, another alternative is to grind your own lamb. Finally, I’ve read that you can grind meat by pulsing it in a standard food processor, though I’ve never actually tried this particular strategy. If all else fails, substitute ground beef and call it cottage pie instead! It will still be delicious!
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
- 1/2 cup onions, finely diced
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas, warmed
- 3/4 cup frozen corn, warmed
- 2 cups creamy mashed potatoes*
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Additional cheddar cheese and parsley, for garnish
*Prepared using your favorite mashed potatoes recipe or boil 4-5 Russet potatoes until fork-tender. Blend with butter and milk until creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add carrots and onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the ground lamb. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 minutes, until a sauce thickens around the meat. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed potatoes with the cheddar cheese.
To assemble the pie, spread the meat and sauce into a baking dish. Top with a layer of peas and corn. Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on the top. Garnish with a sprinkle of cheddar and fresh parsley. Bake for about 15 minutes, until it bubbles around the edges and the top is lightly browned.