After several hours of banging back Guinness pints with Jameson Irish Whiskey chasers, Michael and I always find ourselves stranded on a street-side curb waiting for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade to pass us by. Stranded and hungry. Here's the deal, we don't really ignore the blatant opportunities surrounding us to chow down on Irish fare. On St. Patrick's Day, practically every bar and restaurant hawks variations of Irish Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Reuben Sandwiches, or Shepherd's Pie. While food is everywhere, the day gets a wee bit complicated. During the frenzy leading up to the parade, our resolve to eat something and pace ourselves dissolves into the foam of endless rounds of beer or the melting salt of bright green margaritas. Would you like something to eat? Hell no, wrap me up in a green feather boa topped off with a glittery leprechaun hat. Shiny clip-on tinsel hair? Yes, please. And while you're at it, I'll have another beer. Or margarita. And so it goes. Before we know it, the haunting drone of echoing bagpipes always lures us down to the parade route.
Year after year, there we are, trapped on a random sidewalk (far far away from the mere aroma of food) surrounded by happy families, drunken parade goers, bagpipe pipers, prancing horses, local bands, funny cars, and over enthusiastic scary clowns. Trapped and starving. What's a boy to do? This year, I might skip the parade, rent a little pushcart, and wander through the crowded revelers peddling little Shepherd's Pie Portable hand pies. Cue music. Who will buy my hot savory pies? Such a pie I never did see. Think about it. Munchies for the merry masses. St. Thomas, the Pie Bearer.
Savory Irish Pies.
Not to be confused with Irish Pasties, the batter-dipped deep fried meat pies sold throughout Northern Ireland in fish and chips shops, Shepherd's Pies (lamb) and Cottage Pies (beef) are fabulous common casserole dishes composed of various meats, vegetables, and potatoes. Minced or braised meat? Sliced or mashed potatoes? Peas and/or carrots? It doesn't really matter. Whatever combination, they're nearly impossible to muck up.
Shepherd's Pie Hand Pies.
A fun little riff on shepherd's pie.
I used a wooden spoon to break up the ground lamb and let it brown for a few minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika, salt, and cracked black pepper. After swirling the spiced tomato paste throughout the browned lamb, I let it toast to deepen the flavor. When the brick-colored lamb started to caramelize, I deglazed the skillet with 1 cup Guinness, 2 cups beef stock, and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I tossed 2 bay leaves along with a handful of fresh thyme stems into the mix, brought it to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let it rip for 45 minutes, stirring during wine refills.
When the highly aromatic lamb concoction reduced and thickened, I added 1 cup of peas and pulled the skillet from the heat to cool.
While store bought pie dough would have been fine, I had the stuff to throw together a very basic pie dough. I sifted 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar into a food processor, added 16 sliced tablespoons of very cold unsalted butter, pulsed the mix a few times until it crumbled, added 1/4 cup ice water, and pulsed it again for a split second to pull the dough together. I scooped the dough out of the processor, divided it in half, patted it into two discs, wrapped the discs in plastic wrap, and slid them into the refrigerator to chill.
Cracked open, the filling spilled and oozed from the steaming pies. Tucked inside the buttery crisp shells, the mild malty bitterness of the Guiness-infused beef stock tempered the slight gaminess of the ground lamb. While the vegetables added subtle sweetness, the flaky salt provided a clean crunch that countered the soft earthy tang of the melted sharp white cheddar cheese. Fabulous.
Little lucky hand pies.
Bring on the bagpipes.