February 26 – March 5, 2023

Monday:                   Chicken Fried Rice

Tuesday:                   My (Geoffrey Zakarian’s) Mother’s Shepherd’s Pie

Wednesday:            Black Bean Soup

Thursday:                 Unstuffed Shells

Friday:                       On retreat

Saturday:                  On retreat

Sunday:                     Leftover Shells with Green Salad


 Geoffrey Zakarian is the son of an Armenian-American father and a Polish mother.   

Shepherd’s Pie, originally known as Cottage Pie, comes from the British Isles. 

Last week I cooked Zakarian’s version of Shepherd’s Pie and it beat all the previous versions I’ve tried and the versions I’ve had at local Irish pubs. 

Now to a certain group of what I can only call neo-Puritanical prigs (I’m trying to be nice), Zakarian was engaged in cultural appropriation.  Actually, he was perpetuating a heinous act performed by his mother during his innocent, unsuspecting childhood.  Because Zakarian’s recipe was based on one of his favorite dishes cooked by that Polish mother.  He calls his version of Shepherd’s Pie:  “My Mother’s Shepherd’s Pie.” 

But things get worse.  Geoffrey creates a particularly creamy and fluffy mashed potato by using French techniques he learned at culinary school.   

So here we have a Polish woman feeding her family by appropriating a recipe from the peasants (cottage-dwellers) of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, and then her son compounding the problem by varying some ingredients and using French, yes, I said French, techniques to cook the dish. 

But in spite of Geoffrey’s sins, there have been no protests by native UK and Irish residents in front of his restaurants.  They are not the kind of injury-nursing, identity jerkwaters* that do that sort of thing. 

*I use this word advisedly, knowing that it will offend some ideologically-warped souls out there.  But, honestly, I think they need this kind of tough love as much as Trump-supporters (check to make sure they’re not carrying before you start on them), anti-vaxxers and Boston Red Sox fans. 

Other great sins of cultural appropriation: Cassava and Sweet Potato the food staples in much of Africa, were introduced to the continent from Latin America.  How about white potatoes (from the Americas) in Ireland?  Tomatoes in Italy (same deal)?  It is as impossible to separate food from cross cultural influences as it is to separate Dave Brubeck or Bix Beiderbecke from jazz. And don’t let the jerkwaters tell you otherwise. 

WELL – I’M GLAD I GOT THAT OUT OF MY SYSTEM.  But the real point of this post is that it is chilly in Pittsburgh and that you should cook Shepherd’s Pie:  I mean, mashed potatoes, lamb and vegetables in a savory gravy.  If you want to draw grown sons to your house, cook this dish – grown daughters, too.  And dogs seem to enjoy it as well. 


(adapted from Geoffrey Zakarian)


Buy a potato ricer.  You can make the potatoes with a hand masher, but they won’t be as light and fluffy as this recipe calls for.  You’ll end up with a sort of removable hat atop the filling – still tasty, but kind of pasty and not the home run the ricer will giver you.  I know this is an annoying note – but you’ll thank me for this someday. 

Timing:                                                      2 hours 

Ingredients:                                             8 servings  

(Leftovers are fantastic – I wouldn’t fiddle with the quantities to make fewer

servings, in part because you need to fill a skillet with this mixture) 

   For the potato topping:

 3 pounds russet potatoes

¾ cup milk

½ cup sour cream

2 large egg yolks

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

    For the filling: 

2 pounds ground lamb (Trader Joe’s had no lamb, we used ground turkey – it was very good)

1 cup pearl onions, fresh or frozen (thawed)

½ yellow onion, diced

1 cup frozen peas and carrots (we used fresh carrot and cooked it with the onions)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 sprigs rosemary, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup parsley, chopped


   For additional topping:


2 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup grated parmesan

Chopped fresh parsley 


There are three moving parts to this recipe – the mashed potatoes, the filling, and the topping.  Take the time to figure out how to prep for each.  You should preheat the oven to 350 F. 


   Make the mashed potatoes: 

Peel and cube the potatoes into 1-inch dice.  Put potatoes in a pot large enough to hold them and enough cold water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch.  Salt the water and bring to a boil.  Boil until very tender – 10 minutes or a bit longer.  Drain potatoes and pass through a ricer.  Add milk, sour cream, melted butter and egg yolks and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and reserve. 

Make the filling (make sure oven is preheated to 350 F and have all the vegetables, stocks and pastes and flour measured out and handy before your start): 

In a sauté pan over medium, melt the butter with the olive oil.  Add the pearl onions and cook, shaking the pan occasionally so that the onions brown on all sides, until caramelized – this really matters. 

In a large ovenproof skillet or braising pan (we used a very large skillet, but are looking for a braising pan – if you have any recommendations, please let us know) heat the canola oil over medium-high or a little lower.  Add the diced onions and rosemary (and carrot, if using raw carrot) and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions soften and brown – about 4 minutes more or less.  Add the lamb (or the turkey or ground beef), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up, until cooked through, about 6 minutes more or less.  Add the tomato paste, flour and sherry vinegar and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, the peas and carrots and the sautéed pearl onions and bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. 

   Spread the topping: 

Off the heat, top the lamb mixture with an even layer of the mashed potatoes, then drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.  Transfer (carefully) to oven and bake until topping is lightly browned (we needed to turn on the broil to achieve the browning) – 40-50 minutes.  Garnish with additional parsley.  Enjoy your appropriation of my family (and Beez’s) culture.

Shepherd’s Pie under the CrustShepherd's Pie under the Crust




  1. This shepherd’s pie will be on my list for a chilly evening in April for sure… I used to make a version of this years ago with 4 hungry kids after our sitter Lisa from the UK made it a staple at 128!
    Thank you Bill and PS: May I borrow your masher🤪

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