Home Chef Notes How to Make a Shepherd’s Pie for St. Patrick’s

How to Make a Shepherd’s Pie for St. Patrick’s

Shared via Tom Yates’ Ace Archives. Chef Tom died Feb 9 at the age of 63.

It happens every year.

After several hours of banging back Guinness pints with Jameson Irish Whiskey chasers, we always find ourselves stranded on a street-side curb waiting for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to pass us by. Stranded and hungry. On St. Patrick’s Day, practically every bar and restaurant hawks variations of Irish Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Reuben Sandwiches, or Shepherd’s Pie. While food is everywhere, our resolve to eat something and pace ourselves dissolves into the foam of endless rounds of beer or the melting salt of bright green margaritas.  Would you like something to eat? Hell no, wrap me up in a green feather boa topped off with a glittery leprechaun hat. Shiny clip-on tinsel hair? Yes, please. And while you’re at it, I’ll have another beer. Or margarita. And so it goes. Before we know it, the haunting drone of echoing bagpipes always lures us down to the parade route.

Year after year, there we are, trapped on a random sidewalk (far far away from the mere aroma of food) surrounded by happy families, drunken parade goers, bagpipers, prancing horses, local bands, funny cars, and over enthusiastic scary clowns. Trapped and starving. What’s a boy to do? I’ve always sort of wanted to skip the parade, rent a little pushcart, and wander through the crowded revelers peddling little Shepherd’s Pie portable  hand pies. Cue music. Who will buy my hot savory pies? Such a pie I never did see. Munchies for the merry masses. St. Thomas, the Pie Bearer.


Shepherd’s Pie Hand Pies.

A fun little riff on shepherd’s pie.

The Filling.

I finely diced 3 carrots and 4 stalks of celery (slightly larger than an 1/8 ” brunoise). After trimming the roots and green ends off of 2 medium leeks, I split the white sections in half, gave them a good rinse, and sliced them into very thin half moons. Working over a medium high flame, I sauteed the vegetables until they started to sweat before adding 2 smashed roasted garlic cloves. As the tender leeks took on a bit of color, I scooped the vegetables onto a side plate and tumbled 1 pound of Four Hills Farm ground lamb into the skillet.

I used a wooden spoon to break up the ground lamb and let it brown for a few minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika, salt, and cracked black pepper.  After swirling the spiced tomato paste throughout  the browned lamb, I let it toast to deepen the flavor. When the brick-colored lamb started to caramelize, I deglazed the skillet with 1 cup Guinness, 2 cups beef stock, and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I tossed 2 bay leaves along with a handful of fresh thyme stems into the mix, brought it to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let it rip for 45 minutes, stirring during wine refills.

When the highly aromatic lamb concoction reduced and thickened, I added 1 cup of peas and pulled the skillet from the heat to cool.

The Pie.

While storebought pie dough would have been fine, I had the stuff to throw together a very basic pie dough. I floured a large cutting board and rolled the dough into two 1/8″ rounds. I used a 3″ fluted cookie cutter to lightly score the bottom crust and mark the shapes. After brushing the scored edges with an egg wash, I spooned dollops of leftover mashed potatoes onto the scored pastry circles and nestled heaping tablespoons of the filling into the potatoes before showering the tops with extra sharp white cheddar cheese. So, instead of trying to crimp together individual pastry pies like empanadas, I draped the second pastry sheet over the first sheet, tapped around the mounded fillings to squeeze out any excess air, and used the cookie cutter to stamp through both layers to seal them together with clean edges. I brushed the little pies with the remaining egg wash, scattered sea salt over the tops, and slid them into a preheated 425 degree oven to bake for 35 minutes. When the pies were beautifully browned, I pulled them from the oven, transferred them to a wire rack, and finished with flash-fried thyme leaves.

Little lucky hand pies. Bring on the bagpipes.

This article also appears on page 16 of the March 2022 print edition of Ace. 

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