Shepherd's Pie

As mentioned in the Daily Menu, I roasted a leg of lamb Sunday evening. It had been in the freezer, vacuum-sealed, for over a year; I'd bought it on sale at $2.99/lb, and been waiting for an occasion when there were more than the two of us in the house. After all, it was almost 10 pounds!

Finally got tired of waiting, and was craving lamb, so I hauled it out, thawed it, and roasted it, and extremely nice it was, too. But, of course, I was left with a lot of leftover lamb. I'm happy to eat leftover lamb just as it is -- heck, I don't even need to warm it up, just whack off a slice, sprinkle it with a little salt, and shove it in my face. But last night I decided to make shepherd's pie -- ground meat pie with a "mashed potato" crust.

It may come as a surprise to you who think of shepherd's pie as being made with hamburger, but the recipe was originally a way of using up leftover lamb or mutton, as the name strongly suggests. I come from English stock, and grew up eating the shepherd's pie my mom made from leftover lamb, and never even heard of the hamburger variety till I was grown up. Just so you know, the hamburger variant is technically "cottage pie" -- and I confess, I've never tried it.

Anyway, my shepherd's pie came out wonderfully, so I thought I'd tell you how I did it. I did it by guess and by golly, didn't measure stuff, so I don't have an actual recipe, but then that's the way it so often goes with leftover recipes.

First I made gravy -- I hadn't served gravy with the roast lamb the night before, but I'd saved the drippings. I scraped the now-hardened fat off them, and put the pan over a burner. I added about a cup and a half of chicken broth, and stirred till all the nice brown drippings were dissolved. I added a teaspoon or so of beef bouillon concentrate, both for the salt and the flavor. I often use this combination of chicken and beef broth flavors with lamb, since I've never seen lamb broth or lamb bouillon on the grocery shelf. I thickened the gravy with my trusty xanthan shaker, and salted and peppered to taste.

I had a half a head of cauliflower in the fridge, so I whacked it into chunks and put them in my microwave steamer. (Any microwaveable casserole with a lid would do fine.) Added a little water, covered, and put it in the microwave for 12 minutes on high.

I then cut a big hunk of leftover lamb -- a couple of pounds worth. I trimmed it, cut it in chunks, and dumped 'em in the food processor with the S-blade in place. I peeled a big onion and a small one, cut them in chunks, and threw them in, too. I added a good 1/3-1/2 cup of the gravy. I pulsed the processor till everything was coarsely ground.

I added Vege-Sal (salt would do), pepper, and a modest shot of Worcestershire, and stirred them in well. Then I sprayed a big Pyrex casserole with non-stick cooking spray and scraped the lamb mixture into it.

By now the cauliflower was done, so I put it in a deep, narrow bowl and used my stick blender to puree it. I added some of the steaming water, and proibably a 1/2 cup of Ketatoes mix. (I bought out Carb Smart's supply of Ketatoes when they went off the market. You can use Dixie Diner's Instant Mashers exactly the same way) then used the stick blender to mix everything up. I salted and peppered the mash, and spread it over the meat mixture.

It wasn't enough, dammit. So I went to the grocery store for more cauliflower. Grrr. Luckily, the store is only 5 minutes away. When I got home, I repeated the whole deal with the cauliflower and Ketatoes, and spread that on top of the first batch, which turned out to be perfect. Next time I'll start with a whole head of cauliflower!

I sprinkled a little paprika on top for color, and baked the whole thing for an hour at 350. It was really yummy -- true comfort food.

This made a good six servings -- my husband and I each had a big serving, he's taken some for lunch today, and I had some warmed up with two fried eggs on top for breakfast (which was fabulous, by the way.) There's still a good two servings left.

As I said, I didn't measure, but given my best approximations, this came to 22 grams of carb per serving -- but half of that, a full 11 grams, was fiber, so the usable carb count was 11 grams. Since this had plenty of vegetables in it, we didn't have anything with it.

If you're a lamb fan, the season when leg of lamb is cheap is coming up. It's nice to know, too, that almost all lamb is grass-fed, which means it has a healthier fatty acid profile than grain-fed meats. If you're not a lamb-o-phile, you could certainly use the cauliflower mixture to top your favorite hamburger pie recipe. And if you haven't tried lamb, do!

I still have leftover lamb; I'm going to make Leftover Lamblets (pretty sure these are in 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes, but they might be in 500 Low-Carb Recipes) for supper tonight.

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Shepherd's Pie

I've never had lamb and can't recall ever seeing it in the groceries in my area. I know it would be different, but was wondering if it would be possible to make the Shepherd's Pie with Pork Tenderloin or Roast Beef? If made it with either of these meats, would you add any other spices, etc. that are different than you do for lamb? I got back from a meeting in San Diego last week and have had laryngitis ever since and am thinking comfort food would be great! Cheryl In VA

Shepherd's Pie Varients

I don't see why you couldn't grind up any leftover roast with onion and leftover gravy and top it with fauxtatoes or "faux-po" (cauliflower/potato blend.) How bad could it be?

With roast beef I might add a little horseradish; I like horseradish with beef. Not having and genius moments about what to add for pork.

Sorry about the laryngitis. I was half-dead when I came back from San Diego; I sympathize. (That being said, SD is a lovely town. Hate the roads, but the town is great.)

Oh, and have you tried asking the meat guys if they can get you lamb? Usually mine can get me stuff they don't stock. Also, my grocery stocks lamb shanks -- great for slow cooking -- in the freezer case, not the meat case. Worth checking out, if only to try it once.

Time to go turn the last of my lamb into Mulligatawny!

Shepherd's Pie Varients

Hi Dana,
I came up with a variation of the Shepherd's Pie after thinking about your ideas. I'm calling it Piggy Pie. Here's what I did: I had a Pork Tenderloin that I had roasted with Rosemary and Pepper in my freezer so heated it in the microwave and then ground it up with onion, chicken stock thickened with Xanthan, brown mustard and Sugar Free Apricot Preserves for my first layer. I put it in a pyrex square casserole. For the second layer I put two sweet potatoes that I had cooked in the microwave and peeled, 2 cups of cooked cauliflower and a little butter and cream into the food processer and whirred it until creamy. I put it on top of the first layer in the casserole dish. For a third layer, I heated 1/4 cup Sugar Free Apricot Preserves and spread the top with it. Then I heated the pie at 350 degrees for one hour. Done!
My observations: I had processed the meat mixture to the point of it being the texture of fois gras and that texture felt great on my sore throat since I'm still not feeling well. I'm guessing next time I'd not process it as long, though. The sweet potaote mixture on top looks a lot like melted cheddar and that was a little disconcerting to my husband but it tasted good! My husband said he would not have used the cauliflower but he is not a fan of cauliflower and I was trying to keep the carbs down. If he hadn't seen it, I don't know if he would have relaized it was there. It made at least six servings, so while the sweet potatoes are something I rarely use due to carb counts, with the number of servings I'm okay with them here. The flavor does go well with the pork but you could cetainly do it with just cauliflower.
Thanks for the inspiration! Cheryl In VA

Shepherd's Pie Varients

Great ideas, Dana. Thanks. I'll check out the freezer case. I rarely get anything from the freezer case but have discovered Jennie-O turkey in there. That is a frozen turkey breast that can be cooked in 90 minutes from frozen in it's own little bag and I think they are good. It is slightly salty to me from the Turkey broth but are super simple and the family likes it very much. I just toss out the gravy packet that comes with it. It's good by itself or instead of roasted chicken breast strips in recipes. Cheryl In VA

Prok or Beef

Wouldn't that then make it Swineherd's Pie or Cowherd's Pie? :-D

Critter Pie

That's a very good point. Should you be cooking up what you're supposed to be watching though? It would seem to be a conflict of interest! Cheryl In VA

Does seem a little creepy.

Does seem a little creepy. And I think I invented a new word.

Potato substitutes

This is possibly the wierdest thing I have tried since going low carb but also one of the best. Red radishes when boiled in two changes of water, are really close to firm red new potatoes. I use them for potato salad, hash and just fried in butter with a bit of salt for a side dish. The skin turns a pale pink and even looks pretty. It will never get meally like real potatoes but it's good and I'm not really crazy about radishes normally.


Okay, this I have got to try.

Sounds Yummy!

I adore Shepherd's Pie, and figured it was just out of the question anymore. I have to admit, I'm not a lamb-o-phile, though, it would have to be hamburger. ;-) I wish there was a way to make cauliflower truly taste like potatoes, though. My DH despises cauliflower and has busted me on any attempt to sneak them in. Any ideas?

Have you tried combining it

Have you tried combining it with the low carb instant mashed potato stuff? The other thing I do sometimes is steam a half-head of cauliflower with about 5-6 ounces of real potato, and mash them together. (In this case you'd need a whole head of cauliflower and about 10-12 ounces of potato.) Yields a higher carb result than the low carb instant potatoes, but it's darned good. If you do a half-head of cauliflower with 6 ounces of potato and serve three with the results, each serving will have 15 grams of carb and 3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 12 grams -- low enough for an occasional treat, but not something you'd want to serve nightly.

But the heck with him -- make shepherd's pie for yourself! He can warm up a frozen pizza for one night. Or you can just make him a hamburger.

Hi Dana, I never tried

Hi Dana,

I never tried adding the LC instant mashed potatoes mix to my cauliflower.....I think the mix has a chemical taste when used alone. Does adding it to mashed cauliflower eliminate that? Also, what do you think of adding butter and heavy cream/cream cheese/sour cream/half-n-half in order to make masheds?

The best fake-out potato salad is made with cauliflower, IMHO. My brother the potato freak loves potato salad in the summer with holiday meals, and I make the cauliflower potato salad all of the time. Each time he eats it he tells me he can't believe it is cauliflower---and he fills his plate with it.

Thanks for the great tips and recipes!

Cauliflower Potato Dishes

I don't like the LC instant mashed potatoes prepared by themselves, but I do like them mixed with the pureed cauliflower -- I can taste that they're not real potatoes, but I like the taste anyway, and I do find it more potato-y, both in flavor and texture, than just cauliflower; also browns better. I have no problem at all with butter, cream, cream cheese, or half and half. All fine by me.

And yes, cauliflower UnPotato salad rocks. I've tried at least a dozen potato salad recipes using cauliflower instead, and all of them have worked out great. Love it, love it, love it. And invariably when I take UnPotato Salad to potlucks, someone will eat three or four forkfuls before they say, "Wait, that's not potatoes. What is it?"

Now I want to go make UnPotato Salad.