Shepherd’s Pie

"This dish was created for the Strip House Scotch Dinner [Livingston, 7:30 pm, February 28th]," says Strip House executive chef John Schenk. "I wanted a traditional savory dish that could match the strength and flavor profile of the accompanying Scotch. I used braised lamb shank meat instead of ground lamb for more robust, deeper lamb flavor."

"This hearty dish gives comfort in the most challenging of seasons. It is a remembrance of root cellars and second cuts of meat. A peasant dish in a cold landscape. A workman’s poem.The complexity of flavors–lamb shank, sweet roasted carrots, mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese–all marry so well. Another case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

"A hearty red wine, like a peppery Cote de Rhone, is all that is needed to accompany this dish."

Note: The trick is to braise the lamb shank until the meat starts to fall off the bone. Don’t stop too early. Overcooking is not really a problem as long as there is braising liquid covering the shanks. Do not make the mashed potatoes too soft. They must have body to hold up to the final baking process. The steam from the lamb meat will soften them."

Serves: 4

For the Braised Lamb Shank Meat:

4 Lamb Shanks (approximately weight 3 ½ lbs), browned in oil
1 Bottle Red Wine
1 12 oz. Can Plum Tomatoes, crushed roughly by hand
4 Cloves Garlic, smashed
4 Bay Leaves
1 Sprig Rosemary
Roux: 2 tbsp. flour whisked over heat into 2 tbsp. melted butter

After the lamb shanks are browned, place in a non-reactive pot with all the other ingredients except the roux and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and place in a 425 degree oven for 2 hours until tender and meat starts to fall off the bone.

Remove the shanks from the liquid and when warm to the touch, remove the meat from the bone and chop roughly. Strain the remaining braising liquid, reduce by half over high heat. Once reduced, thicken with the roux. Mix with the chopped shank meat until a moist consistency. Reserve warm.

For the Shepherd’s Pie:

4 Large Carrots
4 Large Idaho Potatoes or Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and diced large
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
¼ cup Milk
2 tbsp. Minced Shallots
2/3 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
½ cup Fresh Peas (frozen Petite Pois Peas may be substituted )
Braised Lamb Shank Meat from above recipe

Lightly oil the carrots, season with salt and pepper and roast until tender in a 425 degree oven, about 25 minutes (recommended to be done while cooking the lamb shanks.) Cool and dice small, reserve.

Place the potatoes in a pot of hot salted water, bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain and mash with the butter and warm milk. Once mashed, add the minced shallots and 1/3 cup cheddar cheese.

In a 2-quart casserole dish, spread out the lamb shank mixture to cover the bottom. Toss the diced roasted carrots and peas over the lamb shank. Layer the mashed potatoes over the vegetable layer and cover with the remaining 1/3 cup cheddar cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until warm and bubbly.

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