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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Only March lamb is in this Shepherd’s Pie

By Paul Suplee

“In like a lion, out like a…”

Oh, shut up, March and go home. You’re drunk.

Usually one to moderately mock people who publicly and regularly bemoan the winter season, I am now ready to raise my pitchfork to Mother Nature and demand summer! Of course, I do remember past springs when we were shoveling driveways in the waning days of the month, but with our brutal cold snaps, one of which blessed me with a busted water pipe at the restaurant, I’ve had just about enough.

Of course, it hasn’t stopped me from taking the boat out, with three trips so far (with one a couple miles offshore and another just outside the snotty Inlet on an outgoing tide just to see how my little boat would handle. Apparently, she can catch some air quite readily, so at least I know she’s seaworthy for a little thing).

But at the end of the day, it just doesn’t feel like the weather has broken. Even as I type this, it feels a solid 20 degrees colder than it should be. And yet, the peach tree in front of the restaurant is blooming wildly this year, testament to the fact that seasons change, blossoms bring fruit and fruit brings a touch of sweetness into our lives.

Growing up in a family that frequented the Skyline Drive for vacation on a shoestring budget, we picked our fair share of wild berries to use in everything from pancakes to the famous Pillsbury biscuit donuts. Mom would make a fruit compote (pretty sure she didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was) and we would all bask in the deliciously sweet & crunchy, deep-fried morsels smothered in the runny mess.

Simply reminiscing on these memories brings a broad smile to my tired and ragged face. Oh, the halcyon days of youth, during which I would march around wishing the wisdom of age on me. Now in my 50s, however, I align with George Bernard Shaw in one area, and that is certainly not in prose. I am an occasional hack who uses this platform more as therapy and entertainment, than to actually affect change in humanity. No, I merely feel his pain when he quipped that youth is wasted on the young. If only I could go back 40 years, I would ruin my life in very different and possibly more entertaining ways.

So once again: In like a lion, out like a lamb. We usually see a bit of respite, and while Saturday was certainly a gloriously wondrous day, Sunday was a miserable, gloomy and chilly moment in time. It was a cruel joke, Mother Nature, you are mean-spirited.

Where was the lamb, I wanted to know? Speaking my mind aloud, I was met with “in the Shepherd’s Pie.” I chortled. That’s exactly where it is; it certainly is not in the air, or at least not quite yet.

Yes, my girlfriend’s joke was a nice reset button for my little brain on a busy night, and I got back to work.

What an amazingly simple and delicious dish; warming, filling, hearty and quite divine if you take the time to make it correctly. Follow each step and don’t rush it. Slow and steady wins the race with this one. Topped with a heap of mashers, you can’t go wrong on those frigid days of spring. Ha! The frigid days of spring.

Come on summer, you can do it!

Shepherd’s Pie
serves 6

1/2 pound Hot Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 pound Good ground beef
1/2 pound Ground lamb
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 med. White onion, minced
1/2 cup AP Flour
1 rib celery, peeled and minced
1/2 pound mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, beans and corn)
1 quart Good quality beef stock
2 cups Good quality chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 cups Mashed potatoes (recipe follows)
Shredded cheddar blend (as needed)

  1. Cook the sausage, beef and lamb until well-combined and cooked through
  2. Add garlic and white onion and cook for about 4 minutes
  3. Add flour and cook for about five minutes
  4. Add celery and vegetables and cook until hot
  5. Slowly add stock and cook until thickened. If you have to thicken it a little bit more, make a simple roux and add it in stages
  6. When the filling is done, simply fill six ceramic crocks with them, leaving it about one-inch from the top
  7. Add the mashed potatoes (either pipe them on or scoop them on and smooth it out)
  8. Sprinkle with some cheese and melt in a broiler or bake until the cheese and potatoes just barely start to brown
  9. Serve with garlic bread and enjoy the warmth from the ultimate comfort food

Mashed Potatoes
makes about 2 quarts

2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup Half & half or milk
Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Place the potatoes in lightly-salted water and bring to slow boil, turning down to a simmer and cook until they are quite tender
  2. Strain and spread out on a sheet pan for just a couple minutes to steam out. This will give you nice, fluffy mashers
  3. Place the potatoes and other ingredients in a stand mixer and use the whip attachment to make them nice and smooth
  4. Adjust seasoning and set aside until ready to use