We cooked a leg of lamb last week. If you are American, you'll realize that last week was Thanksgiving. Walt and I have been cooking lamb instead of turkey for that holiday for twenty years now. Anyway, it's not easy to find a whole turkey to roast in late November in France. At Christmastime, yes, but not at Thanksgiving, which is not a holiday here.
Anyway, there were leftovers, just as there would have been with a big turkey. The gigot d'agneau weighed in at 3.4 kg, or 7½ lbs. It cost us 53 euros ($66 at today's exchange rate) We got it from a very good butcher down in Saint-Aignan. It seems expensive, but we are this extravagant only on Thanksgiving. And the fact is, so far we have had at least 10 large servings out of the gigot. As leftovers, for example, we've had cold rare lamb slices with home-made mayonnaise and boiled potatoes; spicy, tender barbecued lamb with beans and rice; and now shepherd's pie. There are two servings of the shepherd's pie left to go — we'll have those in a day or two.
Yesterday I cut the last of the meat off the lamb bone. I trimmed off the fat and gristle (Callie will love those pieces) and cut the lean meat into fine dice. It came to about 600 grams. I added 200 grams of smoked pork lardons (bacon) along with a diced onion, a diced carrot, and some chopped mushrooms, not to mention a good handful of corn kernels and about the same amount of diced up green beans.
Mashed sweet potato for a spicy shepherd's pie
My plan was to make the shepherd's pie not with mashed potatoes but with polenta — I've made it that way before and the polenta (grits, but yellow grits, not white) makes a nice change from potato. You could use white grits if you wanted to, but you need to season them well and cook the corn grits to the consistency of fairly thick mashed potatoes. Here's a link to a good recipe (with potatoes) that I used as a guide — Alton Brown's Shepherd's Pie.
At the last minute, after I had prepared the lamb and vegetable mixture for the pie, I remembered that I had four medium-sized sweet potatoes down in the cold pantry. I hadn't started cooking the polenta yet, and I decided to make the shepherd's pie with mashed sweet potato instead. The potatoes cooked in the microwave in about 20 minutes time, and then I mashed them with some butter and just a hint of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper, salt).
Because the sweet potato is, well, sweet — sweeter than mashed potato or polenta — I spiced up the meat and vegetable filling with a little harissa (a chili pepper paste) and some tabasco. It was just a matter of experimenting and tasting until I thought the "pokiness" (a new word for me) of the mixture was right. It needed to have good heat to complement the sweetness of the sweet orange sweet potato pulp.
The sweet potatoes I bought were labeled as having been grown in the U.S. North Carolina, my home state, produces 40% of all the sweet potatoes grown in the U.S., so this was a little taste of home for me. When I was growing up, we distinguished between two kinds of potatoes in our cooking: "Irish" or sweet.
Lamb is also a rather sweet meat, with a strong flavour of it's own, so it can handle a bit of 'poke' :-) It sounds delicious. Good to see you adopting this rather evocative word.ReplyDelete
A couple of days ago, I found (I believe) poky or pokey in an American dictionary with the meaning of spicy or hot that you use it with. But now I can't find it again. I wonder what dictionary that was.Delete
I used the word today but I always say that I did not come to France in order to learn British English. I'm sure there are British people who think we Americans would really prefer to speak British English, but I'm sure we would not. In fact, Britishisms coming out of the mouth of an American in America sound very affected and a little snooty. Having the British accent marks you as a foreigner over there. I don't want my native language/dialect to take on foreign tones, really. It's hard enough not to appear snooty in America when you live in France — adding a funny accent and misunderstood terms in English just makes it worse. There's my 2 cents worth.
The shepherd's pie made with sweet potato is very good. A tagine made that way would be delicious. The shepherd's pie made with polenta is also excellent. I've added to today's post a link to that one.
If I recall correctly, in Southern California there were two kinds of sweet potatoes: white and orange. One of these, I don't remember which, was called yams, which definitely it is not, being a completely different thing. The white variety was, in my opinion, absolutely tasteless.ReplyDelete
Just like you, I cook my orange sweet potatoes in the microwave, and mash them with cream cheese, pepper and nutmeg. No sugar added. Lol
I've never tried cream cheese mashed into sweet potato flesh, but it sounds good. I've tried butter and crème fraîche -- both are delicious. No added sugar, and no marshmallows!Delete
I never experienced white-fleshed sweet potatoes in N. C., but I've had them in France. To me, they are too starchy and too bland.
I have never tried cream cheese with sweet potatoes, but will give it a try. A friend of mine makes deviled eggs with cream cheese, but I've never tasted such.Delete
Wow, that looks great!ReplyDelete
Do you think I could make a Shepard's Pie with diced turkey? Hmm... Maybe a Mexican twist would be good. I'll have to think about this.
You can definitely make shepherd's pie with turkey (or chicken or duck or beef). As for the Mexican twist... go for it.ReplyDelete
NO... it is Cottage Pie if made with anything other than lamb or mutton...Delete
but the methods are the same...
I've made Cottage Pie from leftover Christmas turkey... works just fine...
in fact, over here, the turkey meat is so unlike the UK general market bird...
that I think it would be a winner.
But Ken's recipe, above, would disguise a UK turkey...
UK turkeys, on the whole, are bland, dry and flavourless....
unless you can afford a Norfolk Black - a.k.a. Bronze - turkey...
now, that is real, flavoursome meat!!
Tim, it's shepherd's pie in the States, and it's almost always made with ground beef. In France, it's hachis parmentier, but the word parmentier means it's made with potatoes and whatever meat or poultry you choose. Obviously, the name isn't right for what I make using polenta (I've called it hachis piemontais) or sweet potato (hachis carolinien?)Delete
Irish potatoes...I think my greatgrandmother, who grew up in the South, used that term. I haven't heard it for years.ReplyDelete
Betty, I saw a mention of Irish potatoes on a web site a few days ago. I think it was somebody from Arkansas. Potatoes were carried from South America to Ireland all those decades or centuries ago, and then were taken to North America and called Irish. Funny, isn't it? Some of my ancestors went from Northern Ireland to Boston and from there down the coast to North Carolina more than 200 years ago. The language traveled with them.ReplyDelete
The Laotian vendor at our farmer's market sells white sweet potatoes, but I find them to be very dry.ReplyDelete
Your pie looks delish.
Hi Chris, whenever I buy sweet potatoes here in France I have to examine the carefully, and sometimes even scratch off a tiny piece of peel, to make sure they are orange or white inside.Delete