Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): Lamby Goodness

I think that it has been well established that I am not a planner.  So, when The Beloved and I decided that lamb would be in order for St. Patrick’s Day, I didn’t really expect that we would actually consume it on St. Patrick’s Day.  Rather, I thought about making it on St. Patrick’s Day, made it on Wednesday and then ate it on Thursday.  Then, we had to freeze a whole bunch of it because we went out of town.  And that is why Sunday Suppers is on Monday this week:  we were in the mountains of north Georgia, enjoying a High Time at our favorite bed and breakfast, Cedar House Inn & Yurts, an eco-friendly, ovo/lacto vegetarian menu Keen Place to Stay.  You can follow them on Twitter, if you want.  Very cool people.  The Beloved and I eat meat, but we really support what Fred and Mary Beth are doing to reduce/reuse/recycle and in general minimize their carbon footprint while running a great B&B.

At any rate, back to the Lamby Goodness.  We had always envisioned a sort of shepherd’s pie type deal, and this was my take on it.  Next time I make it, I’ll probably do it differently, but if you’re interested, this is how it went down this particular time.

Lamby Goodness Shepherd\’s Pie

  • a TJ\s boneless marinated leg of lamb (that’s what they had)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • some Italian seasoning (I didn’t have any Irish seasoning lying about.  Sorry).
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups beef stock that I had previously used to braise some tri-tip for chili.  It had been in the freezer for a week or two
  • 1/3 bottle cheap red wine (I used Two Buck Chuck from TJ’s, purchased expressly for this purpose)
  • cornstarch slurry (made with water)
  • 4 Russet baking potatoes
  • lots of butter
  • half and half and some milk (because I felt guilty about using straight half and half)

First, I browned the meat in some olive oil.

I think I did it in three or four batches.

I think I did it in three or four batches.

Then, I sauteed the onion, celery and shallot with a bit of salt and pepper and Italian seasoning.

It's very steamy in there.

It's very steamy in there.

I threw the lamb back in, along with the wine and the stock.

Next up, the braising.

Next up, the braising.

I covered the whole deal with foil and braised in the oven at 275 degrees for about 2-2 1/2 hours.

I covered it with foil because my Dutch oven has a glass lid with a gasket.  I don't trust that gasket in the oven.

I covered it with foil because my Dutch oven has a glass lid with a gasket. I don't trust that gasket in the oven.

And this is what it looked like after braising.  It smelled Wonderful.

I skimmed off a lot of the fat (but not all of it).

I skimmed off a lot of the fat (but not all of it).

See–easy!  Hardly any work at all.  I wanted to thicken it up, so I added the cornstarch slurry (probably a total of 3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in some water.  I let it boil to cook off the raw starch taste.  Look how thick and lovely:

See?

See?

I tasted and adjusted the seasonings.  I think it needed a bit more pepper.  Then, it was on to the potatoes.  I peeled mine, cut them up, boiled them in salted water until tender and then drained them.  I let them sit, covered for a few minutes to dry out and then mashed them with salt and pepper.

I like very smooth mashed potatoes, so mashing them with just the seasonings helps make sure that I get out the lumps before adding liquid.

I like very smooth mashed potatoes, so mashing them with just the seasonings helps make sure that I get out the lumps before adding liquid.

Then, I mashed them again with the Very Lot of butter I put in.  Last, I added my half and half (and then milk when even I couldn’t take it anymore) and mashed them some more.  Here’s what they looked like when they were done:

Creamy, smooth, buttery, rich and lovely.  Everything I think mashed potatoes should be.

Creamy, smooth, buttery, rich and lovely. Everything I think mashed potatoes should be.

Then, everything went in the casserole dish.  First, the lamby goodness:

Steamy and wonderful

Steamy and wonderful

And then, the potatoes.  I just dropped them on top by big old spoonfuls.

The almost-finished product

The almost-finished product

I refrigerated the guy at this point (after letting him cool on the counter for awhile).  The next day, I let him sit out for about half an hour and then threw him in the oven at 350F until his center was at 160F.  Then, I turned on the broiler for a few minutes.  This is what I ended up with:

Hello, lovely shepherd's pie.

Hello, lovely shepherd's pie.

Now, I could have served the lamb stew over the potatoes the day before, or I could have served them over noodles.  Or, I could have smeared a thick layer of potatoes in the bottom of the casserole, browned it and then added the stew.  There were lots of ways I could have gone:  adding more veggies, more spices, piping the potatoes.  But, I didn’t do any of those things.  You can, if you want–like most everything I make and share, I want you to focus on the technique, not the “recipe.”  This was a braise that I thickened and topped with mashed potatoes.  Take the idea and run with it.  By the way, this meal was Seriously Good.  Seriously.

PS  In the future, if I run out of time, I’ll refrigerate the stew alone and mash the potatoes the next day, top the lamb and then bake the whole thing.  I’m really not a fan of refrigerated-then-reheated mashed potatoes.  I don’t know what I was thinking–it all comes from lack of planning.  It was still good, though.  Really.

PPS  Glad to be back!

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Comments

    • says

      Actually, it is a masher–my pastry blender is my fingers, usually! I can’t remember the brand of this guy, but the business end is a broad, flat oval with squares punched out every 1/8″ or so.

  1. says

    I know this probably isn’t the expected response from me, the token vegetarian, but this is right up my alley. You see, I often resort to osso bucco when my Dad and older sister are craving meat because I can just leave it in the pan while I do something elaborate with vegetables. And even better: shepherd’s pie is one of my two sisters’ favorite dish :)

  2. says

    Oooh! Aaaah! This looks so good. There’s a part of me that feels sorry for the little lambs but I’ve brutally crushed it beneath the weight of my craving for succulent, tender meat.

  3. CharlieR says

    So glad to see that you are making real Shepherd’s Pie!

    Most think shepherd’s pie is made with ground beef, not so. That is a potato pie.

    This looks very good.

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