Cottage Pie became known as Shepherds Pie in the late 1800's, and technically it's not Irish, but English. However here in the states, it's served in every Irish Pub I've every been to! So despite the fact that gay people (like me and my husband) are BANNED from the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, I still commemorated the day in my own way - with food. Oh - and beer. I know, you're thinking Guinness. But I went in search of Caffrey's and couldn't find it so instead I tried something new: O'hara's Irish Red.
I spent some time researching Shepherds Pie, and even some old-world Cottage Pie recipes. Glaringly, lamb was the meat of choice. And nearly every recipe called for a can of beef gravy, which I found greatly disappointing. Bravely, I figured "hey, I can make gravy." I also opted to make the dish with small chunks of lamb shoulder instead of ground meat. And I love the pairing of rosemary with lamb, so that was an obvious decision (although a few recipes suggested marjoram - I went with my own plan for rosemary).
So here's my take on Cottage Pie, and I apologize in advance - while the dish was creamy, satisfying, comforting and delicious, it's not easy to photograph. And I was so darn hungry by the time it was ready, I was in no mood to fuss over the perfect photo. :)
I must confess, I was quite pleased with my gravy. Here's the delicious brown goodness mixed in with everything else.
1 lb. russet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1 boneless lamb shoulder (3-4 pounds)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
3 cups beef stock
Salt & Pepper
Healthy splash of Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 white onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, chopped
Worcestershire (1 - 4 dashes, per taste)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Peel & chop the potatoes, cook for 15 - 20 minutes until tender. Drain, add 3 tablespoons butter & salt - mash potatoes. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the lamb shoulder into 1-inch pieces (bite size - you don't want to have to use a knife when eating this meal). In a large saute pan, heat olive oil (medium-high heat). Fill a small bowl with flour and coat each piece of lamb in flour before dropping in the hot oil. Sear the lamb - make sure you brown the pieces all around. If you move them too much initially, or too often the lamb will look gray and dull. I did this in 2 batches to avoid over-crowding the pan. Remove the lamb to a plate and set aside.
The pan should have bits of fried lamb and some liquid left behind. This will all go into the gravy. Remove the pan from the flame of the stove, and off the heat, pour in a shot of whiskey. As you move the pan back to the stove, tip it slightly so that the flame catches the liquor to create a flambe. It shouldn't take long at all for the liquor to cook off, leaving a hint of the whiskey flavor behind. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan, and lower the heat to medium. Stir the butter around and remove the chunks and pieces of meat stuck around the pan. Once melted, add 1/4 cup flour and stir together. This will turn into a thick paste - let it cook for a minute or so in this form. Then slowly begin adding the beef stock. As you add stock, stir it in until the liquid is fully incorporated. You may not use all 3 cups of stock, or you might actually want a little more. 3 cups made the perfect consistency for the gravy, in my opinion. Make sure to season the gravy with salt & pepper - taste after each batch of stock is incorporated. Once you're satisfied with the consistency and the flavor, pour the gravy into a bowl and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean, and add 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Over medium high heat, add the sliced mushrooms. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are softened, but retaining their shape. Remove and set aside. Add a splash more olive oil to the pan, and toss in the chopped onion, carrots and garlic. Add a pinch of salt to start these breaking down, and saute for 5 -7 minutes until the carrots begin to soften. Add the rosemary, lamb meat, mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce, stir through and cook for 2-3 minutes to bring everything back up to heat. Add the gravy, combine well, and bring to a bubble.
Pour the mixture into an 8x8 baking dish (I had a bit leftover which went to the dog...lucky dog), and top with mashed potatoes. Smooth the potatoes over and make sure to cover every bit of the meat mixture. Place dish on a baking sheet, and place it in the oven. The baking sheet is essential - mine bubbled over a bit and if it hadn't been for the sheet I would have been scrubbing my oven today. Bake for about 25 minutes. Spoon out and enjoy.