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Lamb & Eggplant Shepherd's Pie

Eggplant Shepherd's Pie

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Serves 8 to 10.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a Bon Appétit recipe.

My mother made shepherd’s pie occasionally and I remember it as layered with meat at the bottom, corn or peas in the middle, and mashed potatoes on top. The Bon Appétit recipe mixed the eggplant with the meat. I chose to slice and sauté the eggplant and add it as its own layer.

Ingredients:

For the Filling:
1 eggplant (1½ pounds/680g); unpeeled and cut into 3/8-inch (1cm) slices
Salt
About ½ cup (150g) all-purpose flour, more as needed
2 large eggs
½ cup (120ml) pure (cooking) olive oil; divided, more as needed
2 pounds (900g) trimmed lamb; cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes
All-purpose flour for dusting
3 cups (12 ounces/340g) chopped onion
½ cup (120ml) dry white wine
1 28-ounce (793g) can chopped or crushed tomatoes in juice or purée
3 cups (710ml) beef broth or stock
8 garlic cloves; chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano flakes
For the Topping:
2½ pounds (1.1kg) russet potatoes; peeled, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup whole milk
1 cup (3 ounces/85g) Romano cheese

Directions:

To start the filling: Slice the eggplant and salt generously. Arrange in a large bowl or glass baking dish. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Then rinse well in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat a few tablespoons of pure (not extra virgin) olive oil in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Dip slices of eggplant in beaten egg and flour, then fry in oil until golden on both sides. Reduce heat if oil starts to smoke. Transfer cooked eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.

Season the lamb pieces with salt and pepper and then dust with 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour, coating evenly. Heat a few tablespoons of pure olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sauté until lightly browned, stirring often. Transfer to a bowl with any gravy that forms, cover, and set aside.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons additional oil to the pot and sauté the onions over medium-low heat, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and increase the heat. Deglaze the pan and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes with their juice or purée, stock, garlic, and oregano. Add the lamb and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat 1 hour.

Remove the cover, increase the heat, and simmer to reduce the liquid to a gravy, stirring often to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot, about 45 minutes.

To start the topping: Boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Return to the heat and steam off any excess moisture, stirring often. Rice or mash the potatoes, transferring to a large bowl. Add the butter, extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, milk, and cheese. Mix well. (I whipped the mixture using a whisk in a stand mixer.) Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Spoon the lamb mixture into the bottom of a large casserole or baking dish. Arrange slices of cooked eggplant on top. Cover completely with mashed potatoes, etching a design into the top with a large fork.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pie is heated through. Serve hot.