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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Shepherd's Pie
By: Deirdre Cooper

 

 

During this transition month from winter to spring, we celebrate all things and all people Irish. We certainly deserve an early spring this year, but in case we need one more shot of comfort food, I have an idea for a new St. Patrick's Day menu.
 
Corned beef and cabbage has always been associated with Ireland and St. Patrick's Day, but it's roots are actually in England. The Irish did prepare the beef by salt curing, but then sold it to the British, as it was considered too expensive for the masses in Ireland. Coastal cities, such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork created vast beef curing and packing industries with Cork producing half of Ireland's annual beef exports in the 17th and 18th centuries.
 
This brings us to a truly traditional Irish dish, Cottage Pie - or as we now know it, Shepherd's Pie. When the potato was being introduced as an edible crop, affordable for the poor, it was used mainly for the occupants of the cottages which were the modest dwellings of the rural workers, thus the name.
 
There are many versions of Shepherd's pie and almost any meat can be used. Originally the meat was lamb which was associated with the shepherds. I have used lamb, ground beef and ground pork, or a combination of any of them. All work very well and produce a wonderful dish that can be prepared ahead of time and freezes beautifully. Here is our family favorite, but as always, feel free to add your own touches.
 
Shepherd's Pie
 
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb or beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage meat out of casing
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup raisins
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp all purpose flour
 
About 3 cups favorite mashed potato recipe, thinned with half and half for creamier texture
 
Filling: Heat heavy large skillet over med-high heat. Add meat of choice and stir until no longer pink, breaking up the meats. Drain off all but approx 2 tbsp of drippings. Add onion, carrots, raisins, garlic and spices, then beef broth. Cover and simmer until vegetables are just tender. Uncover and simmer until juices have reduced, but filling is still moist, stir in flour. Mixture can be made up to this point one day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temp before proceeding.
 


 

For Crust: Make a nice big batch of your favorite mashed potato recipe, with potatoes very smooth and creamy.
 


 

Assembly: Preheat oven to 400. Place filling in a 9 or 10 inch casserole dish with 2 inch high sides. Spoon potatoes atop filling, spreading evenly to edge of casserole to seal. Dot with butter and bake until filling is heated through and potato crust is golden, 30 - 40 minutes.
 


 

Serve while hot and bubbly and savor this comforting, hearty dish. And now. . . bring on spring!
 
 
 
 

Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

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2019 South 26th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145 · Phone: 215.468.0518 · Fax: 215.468.0818 · E-mail:
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