I woke up at 5:00 am Easter Sunday morning. No, it was not because I was making a complicated and delicious spread for Easter. It was because I was attending sunrise Mass (crazy I know). Lucky for me, it was just the boyfriend and I for Easter so I didn’t see any reason to make a big production of things. We’re comfort food junkies so the idea of this Lamb and Eggplant Shepard’s Pie was appealing to us on many levels, plus it still counts as lamb on Easter, right? To be honest, I could barely keep my eyes open but this dish is one of those half day things, with periods of inactivity, while yummy things simmer away and are made yummier. Plus, the day was so beautiful, it seemed a shame to sleep through any of it. I spent the rest of the day reading in the back yard, mingling with the neighbors and talking to my Godmother on Skype (she lives in Paris), while the boyfriend made a batch of beer. The day could not have been better.
So let’s talk a little bit about this dish. It’s a Greek inspired shepard’s pie, made with lamb, eggplant, oregano and a Greek cheese mixed in with the mashed potato topping. I am fortunate enough to have a Greek store not 2 miles from my house so I was able to find the exact cheese I needed. The original recipe called for lamb shoulder cut into cubes, and while that sounds delicious, I find it’s really not a shepard’s pie if it’s not made with ground meat. Plus, I couldn’t find any shoulder at the store anyway. So ground lamb it was! I’ve been looking forward to making this for some time now. I am ashamed to admit it’s from last year’s March issue of Bon Appetit just like the Turtle Ice Cream Pie. Oh well, at least I finally got around to it. In the spirit of comfort food, I made a Banana Bread Crisp for dessert. Since Spring is in full swing, I fear the time for comfort food is coming to an end, so I must get it all in before it’s too late!
This shepard’s pie came out great. It’s different than any other shepard’s pie I’ve had before and I think that’s what made it so exciting to make in the first place. Shepard’s pie, in general, has many variations. It’s traditionally made with ground lamb and a mix of vegetables. It’s also been known to be made with ground beef, which is also referred to as a Cottage Pie. It’s one of those dishes where I think whatever vegetables (or ground meat) you have on hand will do. But enough about that, let’s get back to this one. As usual, I made a few changes. I already mentioned how I ended up using ground lamb but the recipe also called for a 28-oz can of tomatoes which I omitted. Not that I haven’t heard of it before, but the thought of tomatoes in my shepard’s Pie was just too much for me to wrap my tired head around. The mashed potatoe topping was to die for. I think they would be great on their own (as a side dish) or even turned into one of those mashed potato casseroles, but they were also amazing as the topping for this dish. I am a meat and potatoes girl at heart and this dish truly was a great comfort on top of what was already an amazing day. I hope you all had wonderful things to eat as well, whatever you celebrate.
Lamb and Eggplant Shepard’s Pie
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 8-10 servings
1 ½ lbs eggplant, unpeeled, cut into ½ in-¾ in cubes.
Olive Oil (approx 5 T)
2 lbs ground lamb
3 cups chopped onions
1 T flour
1 c dry white wine
3 ½ cups beef broth (low sodium and/or organic)
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 T dried oregano
Salt & pepper
2 ½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T butter (1/4 stick)
2 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup whole milk
1 ¼ cups (packed) grated kasseri cheese (or substitute pecorino romano)
Salt & Pepper
Spread out the cut eggplant on a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt; let stand for an hour, tossing occasionally. Rinse eggplant and pat dry.
Heat 3 T of olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot, over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and sauté until tender, about 8-10 min. Transfer to bowl.
Immediately add the ground lamb to the pot and brown meat, breaking up with a wooden spoon or potato masher (you may need to drain halfway through). Once all lamb is browned, take meat out of the pot and drain completely.
Add 1 T of olive oil if needed and add onions. Cover pot and cook over low to medium-low heat for about 10 min or until onions are tender. At this point the bottom of the pot will be very dark (don’t be alarmed). Add an additional 1 T of olive oil to the pan and stir in the 1 T of flour. Cook for a minute or two, until flour is dissolved and cooked slightly. Add wine to pot, increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom as you go (about 5 min). Add beef broth, garlic and oregano and bring to a boil again. Add lamb, stir, and partially cover the pot. Cook for 20-25 minutes until all the flavors meld together and the mixture has thickened slightly. Stir in eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 13×9 baking dish. **Can be made up to 3 days in advance. Cool slightly, cover and chill**
Put potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
In the meantime, melt the butter with the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add milk and bring to a simmer.
Once potatoes are cooked, drain them and return to pot. Stir over medium heat until the excess moisture evaporates. Add the milk mixture and mash the potatoes until smooth and then stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Drop the potatoes over the meat filling by using a wooden spoon, until the filling is covered completely. **You can certainly get fancy if you want and pipe the mashed potatoes over the filling**
Bake pie until filling is bubbly and the top is golden, about 40-45 minutes. Let sit 10-15 minutes before cutting into the casserole, so the servings maintain their shape.
My Notes: If you’re not a fan of eggplant like I am, you can certainly add whatever vegetables you prefer. Peas, carrots and corn work really well. If you don’t like lamb, use ground beef. That’s the joy of a dish like shepard’s pie, you can use whatever you have on hand. If you want to make it exactly as originally intended click here.