It’s been a month since we moved in and despite the little things left to do, (like hang pictures) I’m settling into the layout and nuances of the new kitchen…although I do miss my stove and convection oven. Anyway, this Shepherd’s Pie (or is it Shepherds Pie?) is a twist on an old classic, actually a twist on an already upgraded version I would make for our market customers.
During the colder parts of the market season (spring and fall in Chicago) I’d do a shepherd’s pie with a cheesy polenta on top instead of potatoes. Hey, when your strength is uniquely seasoned and flavorful sausages you kinda need to bring your A-game with everything else you’re selling. Normal and traditional has a place but cooking isn’t just a skill, it’s also an art form where creative flourishes are encouraged. Of course you can’t stray too far or people won’t get it. Sorry, I’m ranting. Anyway, polenta Shepherd’s pie sounds good, right? Of course it is. Was quite popular and would pretty much sell out every time we brought it. However…
While at our new local farmers market I picked up some ground lamb with the intent of making regular old fashioned Shepherd’s pie (haven’t replenished my polenta supply yet) but when I sauntered over to the vegetable stand to get potatoes I noticed they had some butternut squash. We’ve been on a potato run lately so I thought a change of pace experiment would be nice. Kept the lamb but changed the topping (again).
At first taste Cheryl initially said she thought she liked the polenta one better. Then she went back for seconds. As she was going back for thirds she confessed maybe she was too swift in judgment, the squash version is really really really good.
Here’s the thing: it just takes your brain a few minutes to adapt to the new combination. You are used to blandish potatoes on top (or cheesy polenta), savory plus savory. The sweetness from the roasted squash is outside what your brain says Shepherd’s pie is supposed to be. There’s a balance and harmony with the two. I thought it was very delicious and came out almost exactly as I had envisioned it. Definitely a dish I’ll be putting on the menu when I’m able to cook for people again.
You can make this with pretty much any ground meat you like though sticklers will say it turns into a cottage pie if you use anything but lamb. Nobody said anything about the topping though.
Shepherd’s Pie w Butternut Squash
- 1lb ground lamb
- 1 carrot, medium sized, small dice
- 1 parsnip, medium sized, small dice
- 1 shallot, yup also medium sized, small dice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 C white wine
- 3/4 C peas
- 1/2 Tbs herbes de Provence
- 1 Tbs butter & 1 Tbs flour mixed together
- 1 butternut squash, medium-large
- Nutmeg, dash
- Parsley or other green herbs
- Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half lenghtwise & scoop out the seeds. Drizzle olive oil on cut halves and season with salt, place cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 60 mins or until the squash is fork tender. When ready, scoop out the cooked squash from the outer skin and mash. Season with a dash or two of nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium high heat brown the lamb. Drain off the fat and set browned lamb aside.
In same skillet over medium heat, sauté the carrots, parsnips, shallots and garlic until soft and beginning to brown. Add the lamb back to the pan together with the peas. Pour in the wine and scrape up the bits.
Whisk in some of the butter/flour mixture to thicken the sauce. Feel free to add some water or stock if you like more sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Put the lamb mixture in a medium sized casserole dish or baking dish. Spread the mashed butternut squash over the top. Once assembled you can refrigerate until ready to cook it.
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake uncovered for 25-30 mins. Finish with chopped parsley or seasonal sprouts on top. (Sorrel sprouts are in the photo, push some new flavors!)