Lamb Shank Shepherd’s Pie


THIS RECIPE IS TRUE TO ITS TITLE with a shepherd’s requisite lamb. But in place of more common versions that rely on ground meat, this calls for tender stewed shanks. For best results, make the stew a day in advance and the topping the day you plan to serve the pie.

Makes one (9 x 13 x 2-inch) casserole / Serves 8 to 10


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks (3 to 31/2 pounds) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, quartered
6 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
1 cup dry red wine


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups reserved cooking liquid from lamb or low­sodium beef or chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen green peas
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds rutabagas, peeled and cut into large chunks (substitute: sweet potatoes or butternut squash)
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 or 5), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Ground paprika


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a deep ovenproof skillet with a lid over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Season the lamb generously with the salt and pepper to taste and place in the skillet and cook until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion to the same skillet and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender and light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

  4. Return the lamb to the pan and add enough water to cover about two-thirds of the way up the lamb, and bring the liquid to a low boil. Cover the pan tightly and place in the oven, undisturbed, until the lamb is fork-tender, about 21/2 hours.

  5. Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the lamb from the liquid (reserving the liquid) to cool slightly. Pull the lamb off the bones in large chunks. You should have about 4 cups of cooked meat. (This can be done several days in advance. Store refrigerated in the liquid. The fat will rise to the top and you can skim it off after it has cooled completely.)


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and continue to cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

  2. Slowly add the wine and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the broth or reserved cooking liquid about 1/2 cup at a time and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly. Stir in the tomato paste to mix. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until slightly thick, about 10 minutes. Add the lamb, thyme, parsley, carrots and peas and continue to cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish and set aside.

  4. While the filling is cooking, place the rutabagas and potatoes in a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; add the remaining butter, season with salt and pepper to taste and mash until smooth.

  5. Pour the filling into the prepared baking dish and spoon the potato mixture on top in serving sizes. Sprinkle with rosemary and paprika and place in the oven until golden brown on top and bubbling around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm, scooping out a portion of the potatoes and lamb for each serving.


VARIATION: For a quicker option, replace the lamb shanks with 2 pounds of ground lamb or ground beef, sautéed until light brown with the onion in Pie, step 1. Or, if time is on your side, slowly stew beef just as you would the lamb.