Recipe: Beer and Bourbon Shepherdess Pie

[fbshare type=”button” float=”right” width=”100″] By Emily Stimpson Chapman

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Photo Credit: Emily Stimpson Chapman

What you can’t seen in the above picture are sixteen hungry guests, patiently waiting to pray (and eat!), while I took that picture. They really deserve a round of applause.

Although the pictures of the Shepherd’s Pie (renamed “Shepherdess Pie” by my friends) may not be anything to write home about, the actual dish was. Chris pronounced it one of my all time greats, and the rest of the guests at my Monday night dinner party seemed to concur.

My friend Rob actually stood at the table, sopping up the last remaining bits of gravy in the dish with bread. Nothing but class around these parts, folks.

The party was for my friends, Nate and Carrie, who were staying with me for a week following my roommate’s wedding. Monday night was their last night here, so we had to send them off in proper style. This seemed proper style.

As for the Shepherd’s Pie, well, let’s just say it isn’t your mother’s Shepherd’s Pie. Unless, that is, your mother used a combination of ground lamb and ground veal, shunned peas and corn in favor of roasted autumn vegetables, and made her gravy with bourbon-barrel stout (and a splash of actual bourbon, just for good measure).

Photo Credit: Emily Stimpson Chapman
Photo Credit: Emily Stimpson Chapman

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest Shepherd’s Pie fan. It’s always a little too bland for my taste. But, thanks to my dad and my friend Duncan (who went halvsies on a lamb, but couldn’t use it all), I had a fair bit of ground lamb in the freezer, so Shepherd’s Pie seemed like a good option.

It was . . . with the proper modifications. Those modifications—switching out the peas and carrots for squash and turnips, throwing in the beer and bourbon, and adding a dash of brown sugar—gave a slightly sweeter, and much richer, more intense flavor to the meat mixture. Using garlic mashed potatoes and gruyere cheese made it a different creature entirely . . . hence the dish’s new name.

It even got the kids (who are normally too distracted by the other kids to eat much) to clean their plate. And that, ladies and gentlemen, I consider my greatest success.

Shepherdess Pie with Roasted Carrots
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 35 minutes


Shepherdess Pie

  • Ground Lamb, 1 pound
  • Ground Veal, .5 pound
  • Onion, 1 medium, chopped
  • Butternut Squash, 2 cups, peeled and chopped
  • Turnip, 1 medium, peeled and chopped
  • Chicken Broth, 1 cup
  • Stout, 1 bottle
  • Bourbon, a healthy splash, which I think translates to 3-4 Tablespoons (optional)
  • Tomato Paste, 3 teaspoons
  • Worcestershire Sauce, 2 teaspoons
  • Brown Sugar, 1.5 Tablespoons
  • Corn Starch (or flour), 2.5 Tablespoons
  • Fresh Rosemary, 2 Tablespoons, roughly chopped
  • Fresh Thyme, 2 teaspoons, roughly chopped
  • Garlic, 1 small head, plus 7 more cloves (Don’t panic, not all of this gets eaten, some is for the roasting!)
  • Russet Potatoes, 2.5 pounds
  • Whipping Cream, .25 cup
  • Whole Milk, .5 cup (plus a little more if needed)
  • Butter, 4 tablespoons
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh- cracked Pepper
  • Gruyere Cheese, 4 ounces, shredded

Rosemary Roasted Carrots

  • Whole Carrots, 2 pounds, peeled, halved, and cut into thirds
  • Olive Oil, 3-4 Tablespoons
  • Fresh Rosemary, 1 Tablespoon, roughly chopped
  • Garlic, 4-5 cloves
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh-cracked Pepper

Instructions (Shepherdess Pie)

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel the outer layer of skin from one head of garlic, trim the top off, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  2. While the garlic roasts, prepare your vegetables. Peel about 10-12 cloves of garlic, and chop 2 of those cloves. Smash the rest. Then, peel and chop the onion and set aside. Next, peel and chop squash and turnip, then arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; scatter 4-5 smashed cloves of garlic between the vegetables, drizzle with 2-3 Tb. of olive oil, and sprinkle with 3 pinches of kosher salt, plus a couple turns of the pepper mill.
  3. Roast squash and turnip at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. When done, remove from oven and set aside.
  4. While the vegetables roast, add 2 Tb. of olive oil to a large, deep sided skillet or pot. When the oil begins to glisten, add onions, ground meat, and 1 tsp of salt, plus a dash of pepper. Brown well, then drain off most (but not all) of the fat.
  5. Return meat/onion mixture to pan and add chopped garlic. Cook for a minute or so, until garlic gives off a fragrance. Add in corn starch and stir until you can no longer see it. Then, add your liquid: broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, and beer. Also, add in brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the sauce has thickened, add the roasted vegetables, thyme, and 1 TB of rosemary to the meat mixture. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and brown sugar if necessary. (I added another 1 teaspoon of salt and another pinch of brown sugar). Lastly, if you’re so inclined, add your “healthy” splash of bourbon. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  7. Next (or while the sauce reduces), peel and chop your potatoes. When done, put in a large pot,  cover with cool water, and bring to a boil.
  8. When the potatoes are done (a fork should easily cause them to crumble), drain off the water and mash. Then, using a hand-mixer or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, whip in the butter, cream, milk, a dash of pepper, and .5 tsp salt. Next, squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and into the potatoes. Add more milk if the potatoes seem too dry and more salt if they seem too bland (I added another .5 tsp or so). Lastly, add your egg yolks and mix until combined.
  9. Pour meat mixture into an 11×7 deep sided baking dish (or something similar). Next, add your potato layer, starting on the outside and working in. Spread smooth with a spatula, making sure the sides are sealed shut. This is very important. If you start just any old place or leave breathing room along the edges, the mixture will bubble up and you won’t have that pretty top layer.
  10. Bake the pie in the oven, on top of a foil-lined baking pan, at 375 degrees, for 35 minutes.
  11. Five minutes before the pie is done, sprinkle with shredded Gruyere.
  12. When the pie is done, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the pie with the remaining fresh rosemary immediately before serving and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Emily Stimpson Chapman

Instructions (Roasted Carrots)

  1. Peel and cut the carrots.
  2. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, scatter the remaining smashed garlic cloves on the sheet, then drizzle with olive oil, three pinches of salt, and rosemary.
  3. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
  4. (Alternately, if you only have one oven and need to cook the carrots at the same time as the Shepherd’s Pie, put them in the 375 degree oven during the last 20 minutes the pie is cooking. Then, when you take the pie out to cool, kick up the oven to 400 and cook for 10 minutes more.)

Cook’s Notes

  1. Technically, to be considered Shepherd’s Pie, you need to use all lamb (If you use beef, it’s Cottage Pie). I couldn’t, because I was doubling the recipe, only had two pounds of lamb on hand, and Kroger has decided to stop carrying ground lamb. Thanks, Kroger. To make up the difference, I went with veal. Feel free to use all lamb, all beef, or some combination of the two, depending on your preferences, budget, and what is available in your area.
  2. What meat you choose will determine the amount of salt and sugar you need. That’s why I recommend tasting before finishing the dish. Lamb requires more, beef requires less.
  3. I used roasted winter vegetables because I wanted something a little fancier, but feel free to sub out the squash and turnips (which I promise are much tastier and sweeter when roasted), with carrots, corn, peas, radishes, or whatever strikes your fancy.
  4. I couldn’t pass up the bourbon barrel stout, but Guinness or another good stout will do nicely.
  5. If you’re looking for the apple crisp recipe, I just used Martha Stewart’s, but reduced the white sugar by almost half and switched out the white flour for almond flour. For the caramel sauce, I went with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe.
  6. Because I was feeding 17 people, I doubled this recipe, so it took more time than if I was making just one pie. If you’re cooking for a normal size crowd, the cooking time will remain the same, but the prep time for doubling took longer (about 80 minutes). If you’re only making one batch, prep time shouldn’t be more than 60 minutes, give or take a few.


Emily Stimpson Chapman is an award-winning and prolific author. Find more recipes designed to foster Christian hospitality in her book The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet.