Okay, to be honest, Friday was pretty fucking glorious. A seriously perfect autumn day: sunny, a balmy 65 degrees, just gorgeous. But when I got to the store after work I still ended up leaning toward comfort food, and picked up a half pound of ground lamb (and some beef, just for shits and gigs). Shepherd’s pie was calling.
This also afforded me the opportunity to use up the celeriac languishing in the “root cellar” (bottom drawer of the fridge, where I keep my carrots and apples and such). I caught it in the nick of time: slightly stronger-than-desired celery flavor, but not yet totally lignified.
Shepherd’s pie is dead simple to prepare. It’s just a meaty, veggie mélange with gravy and a mashed root veg topping. The creativity comes when you decide which veg to use, and how you’ll go about the gravy. My veg consisted of the classic (read:predictable) savory pie combo: peas, cremini mushrooms, Sweet Nantes carrots, onion, and sliced scarlet runners. I sautéed these in the fat from the lamb and beef mince until crisp-tender. The gravy was comprised of two tomatoes (simmered hot until melted into sauce) 2 tbsp veal demiglace and a half a pint of Guiness, thickened with a flour and chicken fat roux. I added some chopped rosemary and thyme for good measure, added the meat and veg mix to it, and into an oval soufflé.
I creamed together a large Yukon gold potato and a celeriac tuber (both peeled, cubed and boiled ’til tender) with a knob of good butter and some half and half. I opted to go cheese-free with the topping (my mother always topped the potatoes with grated cheese, though her Shepherd’s pie was always just ground beef in tomato sauce without veg, likely a vestige from her days in the Marine Corps), but whipped in an egg so the topping would brown up better. In retrospect, added grated cheese and scallions to the potato-celeriac mix would’ve been a sexy take on traditional Irish champ that could’ve elevated it to a new zenith. Next time.