The best shepherd’s pie starts with a languorously simmered lamb stew, fragrant with rosemary and a hint of garlic. Capped with creamy mashed potatoes, the topping becomes golden brown in the oven. Ask for boneless lamb shoulder at the meat counter, or if you like, substitute beef stew meat for a “cottage” pie.
2 lb. (1 kg) boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
8 Tbs. (4 oz./125 g) unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup (2 oz./60 g) all-purpose flour
3 1/3 cups (27 fl. oz./840 ml) beef broth
2/3 cup (5 fl. oz./160 ml) dry white wine
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
3 lb. (1.5 kg) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
About 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) heavy cream, warmed
1 cup (5 oz./155 g) fresh or thawed frozen peas
Preheat an oven to 325°F (165°C). Season the lamb with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the lamb, turning, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
In the same pot, melt 4 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, cover, and cook, stirring, until the carrots are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the broth and wine. Add the rosemary. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pot bottom. Return the lamb to the pot, cover, place in the oven, and cook until the lamb is tender, 1 1/2 hours.
About 30 minutes before the lamb is ready, oil a 3-quart (3-l) baking dish. In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover and bring to a boil. 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 potato masher, 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 dish. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into bits and use to dot the top. With the oven still at 325°F (165°C), bake until the top is lightly tinged with brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Find more simple one-dish dinners in our cookbook
One Pot of the Day by Kate McMillan.