I posted about this on Facebook last week, but I wanted to expand on it because it was so delicious, especially for such an impromptu creation, and one that used up some leftovers. I had shepherd’s pie in mind when I took some Double Brook Farm ground lamb out of the freezer that morning, but wasn’t sure if I would follow through later on or opt for simpler lamb burgers instead.
But I had leftover vegetables needing to be used on my mind, so shepherd’s pie it was. If you have almost any combination of fresh, frozen, or leftover vegetables, those plus some chopped or ground meat (cooked or not), you can make a mean shepherd’s pie, the savory dinner pie with the mashed potato topping. And, as I found out, it is surprisingly easy to put together. Sure, you can just use carrots and peas in addition to some chopped onion, but I didn’t have carrots (or mirepoix). What I did have, however was leftovers: a half onion in the crisper, roasted tomatoes, and roasted parsnips with picada.
Say what? Never heard of picada? Neither had I when I came across a delicious recipe from the highly praised Gjelina cookbook on the Stacey Snacks website. She made a simplified version of the original recipe – and thank you for that! Of course, I had to look up “picada” in Wikipedia, where I learned it is a component of Catalan cuisine, consisting (more or less) of chopped nuts and breadcrumbs.
I used my kitchen shears to chop the parsnips right in the bowl I’d stored them in. I did the same with a the roasted plum tomato halves with caramelized garlic. I also had frozen peas, as I nearly always do. As usual I didn’t have any celery, so used some dried celery flakes I had. (Fresh celery is so tricky, I just never have it when I need it.)
Chopped the onion and started sautéing it using canola oil (olive would’ve been fine, too, or whatever you keep around). Added the ground lamb a minute or two into the onions, broke it up, and cooked it until the pink was gone. Then I added about a tablespoon of flour and stirred that in for a minute before adding the parsnips (bread crumb hazelnut topping and all, the tomato, and the peas. Then I added about 3/4 cup of broth. I actually had some of that Glace de Viand lamb base to use, but any kind of meat or poultry stock will do, or even just water.
I simmered this all for about 8 minutes until it thickened slightly and slid it into a small casserole dish (I had extra filling for a second dinner). I made sure to leave an inch on top for the mashed potato topping.
The only two potatoes I had on hand had sprouted and turned soft. Guiltily, I threw them out. Fortunately I had frozen mashed potatoes from Trader Joe’s (don’t judge me), so I microwaved the last of those, adding a pat of butter, plus a little water because I always think they’re a little too thick. Then they were too runny! Never fear, I always have dried potato flakes on hand (again, don’t judge me!); sometimes they are so handy, although they make terrible mashed potatoes. I used a sprinkle of those to bring the potatoes to the right consistency and spread them on top of the meat filling, all the way to the edge of the dish.
I set the oven to 400°. Having just finished a recipe column for the Packet on “Dinner Pies,” a great cookbook I won (!). I knew enough, thanks to the author’s excellent tip, to put the casserole on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Good thing, after about 25 minutes my dinner was bubbling away and the top was lightly browned. And there was a little overflow making a couple of attractive drips down the side of my dish. Another good tip: I somehow restrained myself for 10 long minutes to let it rest. Oh heaven.