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The beauty of the holidays is getting to see your loved ones—whether they’re invited to dinner or not. Should a couple of guests show up unexpectedly, take those red wine–braised lamb shanks you were planning on serving as a main course and shred them into a filling for a rich, soothing, carrot-and-pea-studded shepherd’s pie. With its golden, buttery mashed potato crown and classic flavors, the only downside of the dish is that, should word get out, you may have a few more uninvited guests show up next year.

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Wine-Braised Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen for Crate and Barrel

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes


For the Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks:

¼ cup olive oil

4 large (4 pounds) lamb shanks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 celery stalks, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped

4 thyme sprigs

3 rosemary sprigs

2 bay leaves

¼ cup tomato paste

2 cups red wine

1 cup chicken stock

For the Mashed Potatoes:

4 medium (2 pounds) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1–inch cubes

½ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt, to taste

For the Carrots and Peas:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large (1¼ pounds) carrots, peeled and cut into ½–inch cubes

⅓ cup water, more if necessary

Kosher salt, to taste

4 cups frozen peas

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Cornstarch Slurry:

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water


1. Make the wine-braised lamb shanks: Preheat the oven to 325º. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, and add the lamb shanks to the pan. Sear the shanks to a dark–brown color all the way around, 12 minutes. Remove the seared lamb shanks from the pan and lower the heat to medium.

2. Add the celery, carrots, onion, thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs and bay leaves, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir continuously to let the tomato paste caramelize but not burn, 5 minutes. Pour in the red wine and allow to come to a simmer; cook out all the alcohol but don't let the liquid reduce, 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and remove from the heat. Add the lamb back to the pot, cover with a lid and braise in the oven until fork tender, 3 hours.

3. While the lamb shanks are in the oven, make the mashed potatoes: In a 4–quart stock pot, cover the potatoes with water, measuring 2 inches above the potatoes. Bring the potatoes to a boil and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. In a small saucepan melt the heavy cream and butter. Strain the potatoes and add them to the bowl of a stand mixer; begin whipping the potatoes and strain in the melted cream-and-butter mixture. Season with salt. Transfer to a star-tipped piping bag and reserve for later.

4. Make the carrots and peas: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrots and water, and season with salt. Sauté the carrots until tender but not mushy, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the peas and stir until completely warmed through, 4 to 5 minutes. The water should be mostly evaporated and whatever is left will emulsify with the butter in the pan to form a sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper and again with salt, to taste.

5. Make the slurry: In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.

6. Preheat the oven to 400º. When cool enough to handle, remove the lamb shanks from the pan and separate the meat from the bones, reserving the meat. Using 2 forks, shred the meat, leaving a couple of chunks so the meat isn't too fine. Reserve to the side. Strain the cooking liquid and add it back to the pan. Reduce the liquid by a third over medium heat, 6 minutes. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry, simmer for 1 minute, turn off heat and mix in the meat.

7. In the bottom of a 9–by–13–inch baking pan, spread the meat–and–sauce mixture out evenly. Spread the carrots and peas over the meat, then pipe small florets of mashed potatoes across the entire top of the pie. Bake until the edges are bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil the mashed potatoes to a golden–brown color, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Crate and Barrel provided the product featured here and sponsored this post.

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