Lamb Shepherd’s pie with thick, creamy mashed potatoes atop a delicious combination of tasty lamb tenderloin, tender-crisp carrots, bright peas, and just the right amount of savory, herbed gravy.
Lamb shepherd’s pie makes a great Sunday Supper and is the ultimate meat and potatoes dinner. It’s a stick to your ribs meal that warms you from the inside out. The kind of meal you need after a long day on the ski slopes, sledding, or building a snowman. It leaves me wishing for snowy days and fireplaces. For someone that doesn’t always like the snow, that says a lot! It’s not a quick dinner, but it’s completely worth the effort for all of this flavor and perfect for this time of year.
The lamb tenderloin is seared on the outside, leaving the inside a juicy rare to medium-rare. After it simmers with with carrots, peas, and gravy, both on the stove top and under the broiler, the finished meat ends up at medium-rare to rare. The gravy is bursting with flavor and just the right thickness that requires you switch from a fork to a spoon, in order to scrape the bowl. By steaming the potatoes instead of boiling them, you end up with a thicker consistency that’s tastes super creamy and holds it’s shape while the meat and vegetables spill across the plate. This is shepherd’s pie at it’s best.
Getting everything together for this lamb shepherd’s pie with the right timing, requires a bit of special attention to get it right. Start steaming the vegetables too soon and they are cold by the time you are ready for them, start them too late and the lamb is cold by the time you are ready for it. While it seems like this dish may take a bit of effort, it is a lot easier if you make sure to prep everything before you start.
A few notes before we begin. I’ve used both ground lamb and lamb loin chops in this lamb shepherd’s pie. The ground lamb gets cooked to well done, which leads to a chewier texture in the final product. The lamb loin chops can be just browned for color and flavor, but the final product ends up medium-rare to medium, which lends to a smoother, fall apart, melt in your mouth texture. When I’ve shopped both of them, the bone-in lamb loin chops tend to be between $.50 – $1 more per pound than the ground lamb. If you choose the ground lamb you only need 1 pound of meat. If you choose the lamb loin chops, I use 1 1/2 pounds of bone-in lamb, and 3/4 of a pound of meat if it’s boneless. My personal preference is the lamb loin chops, which is how I’ve written the final recipe.
I love the way tarragon and lamb taste together, especially in shepherd’s pie. However, you can use thyme, cilantro, or rosemary in this dish, depending on your personal taste preference. The tarragon is measured after it’s been chopped, so the final measurement for the substitute should be the same if you are substituting fresh herbs for fresh herbs. When substituting dried herbs, use 1/3 of the amount compared to fresh. Since the herbs are added at the end, you can always add them, taste, and add a bit more until it’s just right.
Start by chopping the tarragon, dicing the onion, mincing the garlic, peel and slice the carrots, and chop the potatoes. Set out the olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, flour, butter, salt, pepper, red wine, and beef stock along with the necessary measuring cups and spoons. The peas can stay in the freezer and the milk and half and half can be refrigerated until you are ready for them. To prep your lamb loin chops, you need to remove the fat cap and the t-bone. Use a very sharp knife and work as close to the bone as possible to shave off as much of the meat in one piece as you can manage. After they are trimmed, they should look like the picture below. The chunks of meat should be chopped into bite sized pieces. The bones can be used to make stock. If you don’t have time now, place them in a plastic zip top bag and freeze until you are ready to use them.
In the bowl with the lamb, add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and the 2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce. Let marinade for about 10 minutes or until you are ready to use it.
Using a steam basket, bring the water to a boil in the bottom of the pan. Once the water comes to a boil, place the carrots in the top basket, cover and steam for 8 – 10 minutes or until tender.
At the same time, heat a dutch oven over medium heat for a minute or two before adding the olive oil. Add your chopped onions and sautee for 3 – 5 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, continuing to cook for 1 minute more. Carefully remove the onion and garlic from the dutch oven, placing it into a large mixing bowl.
Return the dutch oven to the burner and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lamb to the dutch oven, being careful not to pour in the worcestershire sauce. Tongs work well for this step. Moving fairly steadily, turn the lamb every 30 – 60 seconds. This step should not cook the lamb through, but instead it will brown the outside and build up some great color on the bottom of the pan. Once the lamb is browned on all sides, remove it from the pan and place it with the garlic and onions. Lower the heat back to medium.
When the timer goes off for the carrots, check to make sure they are fork tender (but not falling apart) before adding them to the lamb, garlic and onion mixture. Make sure there is still water in the bottom pan for the steam basket, then add the potatoes to the basket and set the timer for 15 minutes.
Add the red wine to the reserved marinade in the bowl that was holding the lamb. Give it a stir, then pour it into the dutch oven. The sauce will sizzle as it hits the pan. Using a metal whisk, scrape all these darkened bits off the bottom of the pan. This is where we get most of the flavor for the gravy. Keep stirring until the red wine has reduced by half. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt. Then add the flour. Whisk until the flour is completely incorporated then keep whisking for about 2 minutes total, before whisking in the stock. Don’t dump it all in at once, but add it in a slow steady stream. Keep whisking until it’s smooth.
Allow the gravy to come to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for three minutes. Add the lamb, garlic and onion back to the gravy in the dutch oven, along with the tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, adjusted for taste. Add in the frozen peas, stir to completely combine, then scrape down the sides as best as possible to prevent burning. Drop the heat as low as it will go and cover the pot. It can remain here until the potatoes are ready.
Preheat the broiler on high. The potatoes should be done or close to done at this point. You will know they are ready once they are fall-apart tender. The lamb mixture will be fine keeping warm until the potatoes are ready.
Since we steamed the potatoes instead of boiling them, you will notice that they have a slick, starchy, sheen to them when you remove them from the steam basket. Do not rinse them. This starch is what helps them to stick together and remain thick instead of runny once you’ve added the milk and half & half. I prefer the occasional lump in my potatoes, so I use a hand masher. If you prefer a lighter whipped potato, use your stand mixer or hand mixer for the desired result. Incorporate the butter, milk, half & half, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt as you go. To assemble the shepherd’s pie, carefully spoon the potatoes on top of the lamb and vegetables, smoothing out the top as best as you are able.
All the ingredients are hot and fully cooked, so the shepherd’s pie will only need about 8 – 10 minutes under the broiler to brown. If your broiler runs hot, you may want to check it early – around the 5 minute mark. We are looking for a thickening of the top crust and little bits of browning across the surface.
The dish will be very hot when it’s done and the dutch oven retains heat very well, so it will cool very slowly. It smells heavenly when served up, but it’s easy to burn your mouth if you aren’t patient – true story. I’d let it cool about 10 minutes prior to diving into the tender, creamy, deliciousness.
Doesn’t that look delicious?!? I really wish you all could smell this through the pictures. I ate on it all last week and I think I’m already ready for more!
Have you ever made shepherd’s pie? Do you have any experience cooking with lamb? Have you ever steamed your mashed potatoes? Let me know in the comments below!
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Lamb Shepherd's pie with thick, creamy, mashed potatoes atop a delicious combination of tasty lamb tenderloin, tender-crisp carrots, bright peas, and just the right amount of savory, herbed gravy.
1 hrPrep Time
10 minCook Time
1 hr, 10 Total Time
- 1 1/2 lbs bone-in lamb loin chops
- 2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
- 2 1/4 cups carrots
- 1 cup onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 6 TBSP butter (divided)
- 2 TBSP flour
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 TBSP tarragon
- 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 TBSP half & half
- 1 1/4 tsp salt (divided)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (divided)
- Peel and chop carrots.
- Dice onion.
- Mince garlic.
- Chop tarragon.
- Dice potatoes.
- Measure out red wine and beef stock.
- Remove lamb loin from bones and chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Sprinkle lamb with 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, and worcestershire sauce. Toss to combine well and set aside.
- Using a steam basket, bring water to a boil in the lower pot. When it's boiling add the carrots and steam for 8 - 10 minutes or until tender crisp.
- While the water is coming to a boil, warm a large dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the olive oil and allow it 2 minutes to heat up.
- Add in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 - 5 minutes or until tender and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
- Remove the garlic and onion to a large mixing bowl and increase the heat for the dutch oven to medium-high.
- Reserving the marinade, add the lamb to the dutch oven. Moving quickly, brown the lamb on all sides. You do not want to cook it through.
- Place the cooked lamb in the bowl with the onions and garlic and drop the heat back to medium.
- Mix the red wine with the reserved marinade and add to the dutch oven.
- Using a whisk, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the tasty brown bits.
- Continue to cook over medium until the wine is reduced by half.
- When the carrots are done, add them to the lamb and onions. Check the water level and add the potatoes to the steam basket, steaming for 12 - 15 minutes or until fall-apart tender.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the red wine and swirl to melt before whisking in the flour. Cook the wine, butter, flour mixture for 2 - 3 minutes.
- Slowly pour the beef stock into the wine, butter and flour, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring it to a simmer and allow to cook for 3 minutes longer.
- Carefully pour the lamb and vegetables back into the gravy. Add the tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
- Measure out the frozen peas and add to the lamb mixture. Stir to combine completely then, use a spatula to scrape down the sides as best as you can, to prevent burning.
- Reduce heat as low as it will go, cover the mixture, and keep warm until the potatoes are ready.
- Preheat the broiler to high.
- Once the potatoes are fall apart tender, mash using a hand masher or mixer depending on your desired consistency, incorporating the milk, half & half, remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt as you go.
- Gently cover the lamb and vegetables with the mashed potatoes, smoothing out the top as best you can.
- Place the dutch oven, uncovered, under the broiler for 8 - 10 minutes or until you can see some browning on the potatoes.
- Allow to cool 10 minutes prior to serving.