It had been months since I’d had lamb, so the other day at the market when I saw that they had boneless leg of lamb on sale I picked one up. I didn’t have a particular recipe in mind when I bought the meat, I just figured I’d coat it in some sort of fresh herb rub, tie it up and roast it to a delicious medium-rare. That was the loose plan until, when flipping through TV channels the next evening, I came across the show “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network and watched the episode in which Anne Burrell was cooking up this lovely meat “pie”.
Not to be confused with it’s close relative the Cottage Pie which is made with beef, this lamb based wonder is nothing at all like the bland, insipid versions you may recall having eaten as a youngster, served up by the well-meaning lunch ladies at your grade school (no offense to the army of hard-working lunch ladies out there, I’m just sayin’). Don’t let your memories of those gelatinous, mystery meat filled “pies” of your school lunchroom days keep you from making this rich, hearty version….it would be such a shame.
There’s nothing fancy about this meal either in ingredients or technique required, but as Anne explains in the video below, time is required to build flavors here and if you try to rush it you will end up disappointed. Most important is the browning of the meat at the very beginning, and for this reason she calls for cubed lamb shoulder (or leg), and not ground which is what many people use. It is much harder to properly brown ground meat, and without the beautiful mahogany crust on the meat and the resulting “fond” in the bottom of the pan, the flavor of this dish just won’t turn out as robust as it should. The ultimate success of this dish is all about capturing as much of that caramelized goodness from the browning of the meat and veggies as you can before de-glazing with the wine and stock, so pour yourself a glass before you get started and take your time here.
Check out Anne’s video below to get more of her great cooking tips, to score the full recipe, and to watch her actually craft this dish. I just love her style, don’t you?
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You can see more videos like this at ulive.com.
If you don’t want to do the full monty you can always serve up the lamb stew and mashed potatoes separately, but it’s oh-so-much more special (and hardly any more work) to dress up your stew with the spuds and pop the “pie” under the broiler for a few minutes. If you like to practice advanced meal planning (and who doesn’t?) might I suggest even making a double batch of the stew and freeze half of it. Then, somewhere down the road you are only a fresh batch of mashed potatoes and a few minutes in the oven from a second shepherd’s pie.
I’m always looking out for you folks, yes?
This time around I took inspiration from my talented friend Lynda over at Tastefood who is always impressing me by crafting meals and desserts served up in individual ramekins, pots and goblets, and I decided to make single-person servings of this meal by spooning the stew into ramekins and then piping the mashed potatoes on top. They turned out pretty elegant for a dish of rather humble origins, don’t you think?
Cheers – Steve