Whether braised or roasted, the Easter leg of lamb that made such an impressive centerpiece at Sunday's meal may have provided you with more leftovers than you think you can manage. One great way to turn this leftover lamb, and any leftover vegetables too, into a completely new dinner for the next night is to assemble the leftovers into a shepherd's pie.
Shepherd's pie in its original form was known as cottage pie. Cottages are humble abodes, and cottage pie has its origins as a meal for humble cottage dwellers, a peasant-style casserole invented to eke out meals from every last bit of a leftover roast of beef or lamb. In later years, the casseroles using lamb took to being named for the men who tended the sheep, while Cottage Pie referred to dishes made with beef.
Today, cottage pie as a name has all but disappeared from common use, and most dishes made with ground meat mixed with vegetables and topped with a mashed potato crust are known as shepherd's pies. One thing hasn't changed, though: a shepherd's pie is a fabulous way to use up your leftovers.
Here, in this recipe from Amesbury's Jane Ward, the leftovers from a braised leg of lamb are roughly chopped and combined with the meat's braising sauce and the meal's leftover root vegetables to form the base of the casserole. Smashed or crushed new potatoes have a lot of body, and when spread on top of the lamb make a hearty "crust" that will stand up to a quick bake in the oven. If you roasted your lamb, the meat can be more finely chopped, but is just as easily put through a meat grinder if you have one.
Lamb Shepherd's Pie with Smashed Potato Crust
1 pound tender-skinned, small new potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, more or less as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Chives or scallion greens, finely chopped (optional)
Leftover braised leg of lamb, coarsely chopped
Leftover sauce made from braising liquid
Leftover roasted vegetables, chopped (alternately you may use any vegetables such as peas and carrots that you have on hand)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Wash and quarter the potatoes and place into a saucepan of cold, salted water. Place this pan on high heat and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, regulating heat as necessary to maintain a gentle but steady boil, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
2. Strain the potatoes well and return them to the hot pan. Add to these the butter and 2 tablespoons of cream. Begin to smash the potatoes roughly in the pan using a potato masher or the back of a slotted spoon. Continue to mash, adding cream a couple of tablespoons at a time until you have potatoes that are creamy but retain some body and texture.
3. To the potatoes fold in chives or scallions if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you assemble the casserole.
4. Coarsely chop the leftover braised lamb and place this meat in a large mixing bowl. Add to this the chopped vegetables and the leftover braising liquid. Mix well and turn into a 3-quart casserole dish or gratin dish.
5. Spread smashed potatoes over the top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until potato crust is golden brown and casserole is bubbling.
Recipe courtesy of Jane Ward, Food and Fiction, 2011.