Try a mini Shepherd’s pie



Savory Irish Pies — not to be confused with Irish Pasties, the batter-dipped deep fried meat pies sold throughout Northern Ireland in fish and chips shops, Shepherd’s Pies (lamb) and Cottage Pies (beef) are fabulous common casserole dishes composed of various meats, vegetables, and potatoes. Minced or braised meat? Sliced or mashed potatoes? Peas and/or carrots? It doesn’t really matter. Whatever combination, they’re nearly impossible to mess up.

Shepherd’s Pie Hand Pies.
A fun little riff on shepherd’s pie.
The Filling.

To accommodate the smallish nature of the pies, I finely diced 3 carrots and 4 stalks of celery (slightly larger than an 1/8 ” brunoise). After trimming the roots and green ends off of 2 medium leeks, I split the white sections in half, gave them a good rinse, and sliced them into very thin half moons. Working over a medium high flame, I sauteed the vegetables until they started to sweat before adding 2 smashed roasted garlic cloves. As the tender leeks took on a bit of color, I scooped the vegetables onto a side plate and tumbled 1 pound of Four Hills Farm ground lamb into the skillet.

I used a wooden spoon to break up the ground lamb and let it brown for a few minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika, salt, and cracked black pepper. After swirling the spiced tomato paste throughout the browned lamb, I let it toast to deepen the flavor. When the brick-colored lamb started to caramelize, I deglazed the skillet with 1 cup Guinness, 2 cups beef stock, and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I tossed 2 bay leaves along with a handful of fresh thyme stems into the mix, brought it to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let it rip for 45 minutes, stirring during wine refills. When the highly aromatic lamb concoction reduced and thickened, I added 1 cup of peas and pulled the skillet from the heat to cool.

The Pie.

While store-bought pie dough would have been fine, I had the stuff to throw together a very basic pie dough. I sifted 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar into a food processor, added 16 sliced tablespoons of very cold unsalted butter, pulsed the mix a few times until it crumbled, added 1/4 cup ice water, and pulsed it again for a split second to pull the dough together. I scooped the dough out of the processor, divided it in half, patted it into two discs, wrapped the discs in plastic wrap, and slid them into the refrigerator to chill.

After 25-30 minutes, I floured a large cutting board and rolled the dough into two 1/8″ rounds. I used a 3″ fluted cookie cutter to lightly score the bottom crust and mark the shapes. After brushing the scored edges with an egg wash, I spooned dollops of leftover mashed potatoes onto the scored pastry circles and nestled heaping tablespoons of the filling into the potatoes before showering the tops with extra sharp white cheddar cheese. So, instead of trying to crimp together individual pastry pies like empanadas, I draped the second pastry sheet over the first sheet, tapped around the mounded fillings to squeeze out any excess air, and used the cookie cutter to stamp through both layers to seal them together with clean edges. I brushed the little pies with the remaining egg wash, scattered sea salt over the tops, and slid them into a preheated 425 degree oven to bake for 35 minutes. When the pies were beautifully browned, I pulled them from the oven, transferred them to a wire rack, and finished with flash-fried thyme leaves.

Cracked open, the filling spilled and oozed from the steaming pies. Tucked inside the buttery crisp shells, the mild malty bitterness of the Guinness-infused beef stock tempered the slight gaminess of the ground lamb. While the vegetables added subtle sweetness, the flaky salt provided a clean crunch that countered the soft earthy tang of the melted sharp white cheddar cheese.

Bring on the bagpipes.



This article also appears on page 25 of the March 2020 print edition of Hamburg Journal.

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