I’m a little late to the St. Patrick’s Day party with my Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, but it was the photos I saw during that celebration that inspired me to make my own version. So now I am suggesting Lamb Shepherd’s Pie for your Mother’s Day brunch. See how neat I worked that in? But really, this dish is rich and succulent and redolent of lamb. I couldn’t stop tasting it as I was making it. You know what you do, just one more little spoonful, every time you walk past the stove. I had to tell myself no more, or there wouldn’t be enough to finish the dish.
The Parmesan Ricotta Potatoes on top of this Shepherd’s Pie is a version of the potato dish I made for a Culinary School banquet in 1992, which I called Potato Blocks on a Bed of Brandied Mushrooms. Potato Blocks. Jeez. What was I thinking. I baked them in a 9×13 pan, chilled them, and then cut them into rectangular blocks. They were brushed with butter and reheated in the oven. You could pipe them into rosettes and bake. Or bake in a bread pan, chill and cut into slices, which can then be browned in butter, for breakfast with your eggs, or dinner with your entrée. You may have had Duchesse Potatoes before, but the ricotta and parmesan really take it to a whole new level.
The sauce-liquid-gravy-juice in the lamb stew has all the flavor from the meat and vegetables, plus white wine, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, fresh oregano and thyme. To. Die. For. And as I mentioned above, try to restrain yourself from eating too much before you get the potatoes on top.
I used an ice cream scoop to get the potatoes on the stew. Position the scoops of potato as close to the pan sides as possible and touching each other. Then fill in the bare spots with more potato.
Level the potato with a big spoon or offset spatula, making sure the potato is sealing the sides and corners completely. Add a few more dollops of potato mixture on top to be spooned around beautifully into spoon-shaped depressions and curling ridges.
Aaahh, so beautiful. So fragrant. So full of promise. I really wish I had some right now.
It tastes even better than it looks.
Lamb Shepherd’s Pie with Parmesan Ricotta Potatoes
2 pounds lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes (leg steaks or boneless shoulder, trimmed)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoon butter
3 cups chopped onion
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans low-sodium beef broth
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, if needed
Parmesan Ricotta Potatoes (recipe below)
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add half of lamb cubes and brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons additional olive oil and brown remaining lamb cubes. Remove to bowl and reserve.
2. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in same Dutch oven (with crusty lamb on bottom) and add onions. Scrape loose browned bits on bottom of pot. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and celery and stir to coat with oil.
3. Add 1 cup of wine and boil until mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
4. Add flour, stir and brown, about 2 minutes.
5. Add tomato paste, broth, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and reserved lamb cubes, with any juices, to pan. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.
Note: While the stew is simmering, make the Parmesan Ricotta Potatoes.
6. Remove cover, add 1 cup wine and simmer stew for about 45 minutes, until lamb is tender and liquid is reduced to stew consistency. Add additional beef broth if necessary. Remove bay leaves.
7. Check if salt is needed. It may be salty enough, as the beef broth has salt and has been reduced. Add a dash of black pepper.
8. Transfer stew to 2-quart 8×8 glass baking dish.
9. Drop potatoes over stew in large dollops that are touching. Fill in empty areas with additional potatoes. Using small offset spatula or tablespoon, smooth potatoes so that they are sealed against all sides and corners of baking dish.
10. Add additional small scoops of potatoes on top and using a spoon, make depressions and ridges in top.
11. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
12. Set filled baking dish on sheet. Bake until potato ridges are browned and filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
Parmesan Ricotta Potatoes
3 pounds baking potatoes, washed and peeled, cut in quarters (I used russets)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ pound (1 cup) ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten separately in small bowl
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano, rubbed
1. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Mash or put through ricer.
2. In a large sauce pan (I used my wok), melt 3 tablespoons butter. Sauté garlic over moderately low heat until translucent but not browned.
3. Remove from heat and stir in ricotta, Parmesan and cream. Add eggs and mashed potatoes, stirring to combine.
4. Add salt, pepper and dried oregano and mix well. Spread over Lamb Shepherd’s Pie.
Note: If you have more potato mixture than you need for the Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, you could pipe small rosettes onto a buttered baking sheet to be baked separately for about 10 minutes. Or make into a small loaf, bake and chill, to be sliced and browned in butter.