You know, I've never made this before. It crosses my mind to make it probably once every fall/winter, but I just never do it because we have rack of lamb or leg of lamb instead. Actually, my sexy man Mark will be doing some of his Iron Chef cooking tomorrow and we'll be having rack of lamb with his famous Cabernet sauce. I'm telling you, it is SO good. I'll have to watch him make it so I can get you the recipe to the sauce.
Anyway, I digress... (if you know me, that's not unusual). Last night again I wanted to make Mark a good homemade dinner since he was coming home from another week out of town. I searched for a good Shepherd's Pie recipe that wasn't just carrots, peas and beef slurry under some boring mashed potatoes and I came across Michael Chiarello's "Shepherds Pie with Scallion-Cheese Crust" recipe. Folks, this one is "money" (as Guy Fieri would say).
Among the vegetables this recipe called for, there were onions, carrots, and cremini mushrooms. The recipe also uses beef broth and red wine, so it's obvious it's supposed to have a nice, deep, rich flavor.
So, to add to that idea, I decided to also use some porcini mushrooms (I bought them dried and reconstituted them in some hot water) and some peas and garlic. Yes folks, this recipe was devoid of garlic. ha! I laughed at that. I added three small cloves' worth. I also decided to add the peas because I had some frozen and I just thought they fit.
To start this dish, I browned the beef and ground lamb in some olive oil. This recipe says to use 1/2 lb. of lamb and a lb of beef. I did the exact opposite and used a lb of lamb and 1/2 lb. of beef. It had a gamier taste to it and that's exactly what I wanted. If you love lamb (as you should), then you'll want to do it this way too.
After the meat was browned, I removed it from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the wonderful drippings in the pan. I then added my onions, cooked them until the edges were browned, then added my carrots and garlic. After five more minutes I added some tomato puree, thyme and parsley (I used dried and it worked out just fine), salt and pepper and decided to leave out the cinnamon that the recipe called for. The reviews posted for that recipe all pretty much said it was a little bit of an odd thing to taste in a shepherd's pie, so I decided to skip right over that ingredient.
Next, I added the flour, wine, and beef broth, peas, and returned the meat back to the pan. The smell, people.... the smell. Mmmmmm....
I put the pan of goodness on simmer and covered it for 30 minutes. That was just enough time to peel, cut, and boil my potatoes. Once they were fork tender, I simply added 2 tablespoons of butter to them and pureed them with my beaters. This made for some dry mashed potatoes, but that's what you want. The potatoes will end up soaking up the moisture from the lamb/beef/veggie filling.
After the "pie" filling was done cooking, I filled four small crocks 3/4 of the way full with it. I then iced the tops with my mashed potatoes.
Before placing these beauties in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, I topped them with grated sharp cheddar and finely chopped scallions. This really gave the crust a great flavor.
I dug in for the first bite and it was really good. But folks, take heed... these damn things stay piping hot FOREVER! Seriously, I could have taken these out of the oven a half hour before serving them and they would have still been hot enough to blow on your spoon before taking a bite. My tongue took a bit of a beating because I couldn't wait to try this dish, but it was worth it. I would definitely make this one again. It's always nice to have such success with a dish that you've made for the very first time, isn't it?