Jules & I love traditional shepherd’s pie – a simple dish of lamb, onions, carrots, and peas stewed in Guiness, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked to perfection. A shepherd’s pie is most certainly a hearty dish suitable for colder days, and with last night’s temperature drop in San Francisco, it seemed like a good occasion to whip one up. I didn’t have the right ingredients for an English shepherd’s pie, but I did happen to have some Basque sausage from Olivier’s Butchery in the freezer (pork sausages seasoned with piment d’espelette) so I ended up twisting the traditional flavors in favor of a spicier version. Though the sausages are French Basque, I took some liberties and seasoned this dish like the Spanish Basque – essentially creating a paella-flavored pie that turned out surprisingly well!
I apologize that the photos aren’t exactly beautiful, but trust me – the taste is excellent, and this is what matters, yes?
Basque Shepherd’s Pie
For the topping:
4 potatoes, boiled until ready to mash and skins removed
1 T butter
1/4 c. milk (can use cream or half and half if you prefer)
1/2 c. grated hard cheese (I used gruyere)
salt and pepper
Using a potato masher, mash potatoes in a large bowl and mix in butter and milk. You want a thinner consistency than regular mashed potatoes so that you will be able to spread them over the filling. Mix in 1/2 of the gruyere, reserving the other half to sprinkle on the assembled pie. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For the filling:
10 saffron threads
1 lb. of Basque sausage, removed from casing
1 onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
4 sticks of celery
2 carrots, cubed
1/2 cup peas (fresh if available, but frozen works too)
2 T tomato paste
1 T pimenton de la vera
2 cups water
1/4 c water with 2 T flour dissolved
salt and pepper
In a medium sized dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add saffron threads then the sausage, breaking up the meat so that it looks like cooked ground beef. Once the meat is browned, add the onions, and let cook for about a minute. Add garlic, and stir, then add celery & carrots. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the tomato paste and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Add the pimenton de la vera, and stir. You want to make sure that there is enough liquid in the pot to keep the mixture just barely covered – add more water if necessary. Salt and pepper, then add the flour-water mixture to thicken the liquid into a more stew-like consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the peas at the last minute.
To assemble the pie:
In a medium sized casserole pan, ladle the stew mixture in an even layer. Spread the mashed potato mixture over the top, and smooth out, then top with the remaining grated cheese. You can opt to also sprinkle the top with a little pimenton de la vera for color. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30-45 minutes, until the top is slightly browned.