Celebrate St. Paddy's Day With Shepherd's Hand Pies

By: Liz Gray
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Shepherd’s pie: It's serious comfort food. Thick, flavorful sauce, gamey lamb, bits of vegetables – it’s everything you want in a hearty Irish meal. However, it's not exactly appetizer- or party-friendly. So how do you enjoy it on St. Patrick’s Day, when it’s practically required to have a beer (green or not) in one hand at all times? You transform it into a hand pie, complete with parsley "clovers."

Here’s how.

These mini pies combine the best flavors of Shepherd's pie in a convenient handheld package. I used potato chunks, but if you have leftover mashed potatoes, omit the potatoes and add the mashers when you remove the filling from the heat. The parsley on top isn't just decorative; it adds extra crunch to the top of the pie.

Shepherd’s Hand Pies With Crispy Parsley

Makes 10-12 3-inch hand pies
Cream Cheese Crust
Ingredients
4 oz. cold butter (1 stick)
4 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup whole milk, plus 2-3 tablespoons

Cut the butter and cream cheese into 1/2-inch cubes; store in the freezer while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  Combine the dry ingredients in the food processor, pulse to combine.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture looks like small peas.  Add the milk and pulse until combined. If the mixture still looks dry, add 2-3 more tablespoons milk, pulsing after each addition. Chill while you prep the filling, at least 30 minutes.

Shepherd’s Pie Filling
Ingredients
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb. ground lamb
2 medium carrots, diced

1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced (or 1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes)

1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1 can dark beer (such as Guinness)
Splash heavy cream

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Cook until light brown, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Add lamb and cook until brown. Add carrots, potato, peas, garlic and thyme. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and flour and cook for 1 minute.

Deglaze the pan with a splash of dark beer, scraping brown bits off the bottom of the pan. When the liquid has almost evaporated, add the rest of the can of beer (less whatever you might have sampled.) Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream (about 1 tablespoon.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste, then let cool slightly while you roll the pastry.

Pie Construction
Ingredients/Equipment
1 egg
1/4 cup water
Pastry brush
Salt and pepper to taste
3-inch biscuit cutter
10-12 sprigs Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with half of the dough on a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out rounds with the 3-inch biscuit cutter (you’ll need 2 for every pie.)  Spoon about a teaspoon of filling onto half of the crusts. Place the other half of the rounds atop to form a round pie. Seal the edges using a fork.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl, then add about 1/4 cup water. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each pie with egg wash.  Find the most attractive sprigs of parsley your bunch as to offer and pinch off the 3-leafed tip. Set atop the pie and coat with a little more egg wash.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

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