Sometimes, as I am cooking a meal, I am cursing under my breath. I must admit, stages of this dish, I was at least complaining, if not quite cursing. I kept thinking, "This dish better be good. It better be worth all the time."
Thankfully, it measured up. The flavor was incredible. It wasn't overly seasoned, but it was rich in flavor. Curtis and I both loved it. M wouldn't try much of the stew--she immediately recognized the eggplant. She loved the mashed potatoes though. When we told her she had to eat some of the stew (eggplants included) to get dessert, she ate it without complaint or drama and didn't seem to mind it at all. J didn't eat much, we ate too late and he had snacked that afternoon. I couldn't seem to stop eating it and am looking forward to eating it as leftovers today.
This is basically a lamb and eggplant stew covered with mashed potatoes. The recipe called for boneless lamb shoulder. I couldn't find boneless lamb shoulder (just bone-in), so I spent some time removing the lamb from the bone and trimming off the fat (which tends to give lamb it's very distinct, sometimes overpowering flavor). As I tasted the stew part, I realized I cut down on some of the time and a lot of the cost by substituting beef stew meat instead. I think may do just that next time because I am not in love with the taste of lamb. A lot of the time involved with this is hands-off, simmering time or standing time. This is not a meal to make in a hurry. This is a meal to make on a cool, lazy day at home. I made this over 2 days. The first day I made the stew, the second day I made the mashed potatoes and baked it.
This recipe is half of a recipe (the original served 8 - 10, this yields only 4 -5 servings which is plenty for our family, especially for a new recipe). The original also said to make it in a 9 x 13" pan. I think it would just be a lot thicker layers for the original proportions. If you want it thicker, just bake in a 9 x 9 pan or a casserole dish and increase the bake time a little.
Lamb and Eggplant Shepherd's Pie
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Lamb and Eggplant Stew
3/4 - 1 lb eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 3/4 - 1" cubes
coarse kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb well-trimmed boneless lamb shoulder or beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
all purpose flour
1 1/2 c onions, chopped
1/2 c dry white wine
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 1/2 c beef or chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 T dried oregano
1 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 T butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
scant 1/2 c whole milk
3/4 c (packed) kasseri or Pecorino Romano cheese, coarsely grated
Scatter the eggplant on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand for an hour (or longer), tossing occasionally. Rinse and gently squeeze out extra liquid with a dish towel. Heat 3 T oil in a large stock/soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and saute until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside for awhile.
Sprinkle the lamb generously with coarse salt and pepper. Dust with flour to coast. Heat 2 T oil in same pot used for eggplant and brown the lamb in batches--being careful not to overcrowd. Saute for about 8 minutes a batch or until lamb is browned. Transfer to a bowl as finished. Once all the lamb is browned, add additional T of oil to pot if needed. Add onions, cover, and cook over medium low heat until onions are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add wine to pot to deglaze. Increase the heat and boil until wine evaporates, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, garlic, and oregano and bring to a boil. Add browned lamb and any accumulated juices. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Uncover and simmer another 45 minutes or longer, until lamb is very tender and gravy thickens a bit. Stir in eggplant. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 9 x 13" baking pan. (If doing this ahead of time, stop here and refrigerate until you are ready to finish the recipe).
Cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water until very tender. Meanwhile melt butter with oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, only about a minute. Add milk and simmer. Drain potatoes and transfer to a mixing bowl (I like to use my electric mixer, but you can do this by hand). Add milk mixture and mash potatoes until smooth. Stir in cheese. Taste and season with coarse salt and pepper if necessary. Spread over top filling, covering completely. Bake in preheated 375 degrees oven for 45 minutes or until topping is golden and the filling is heated through.