Potato and meat casseroles can be found all over the world, made for centuries by the zillions of poor people who could afford cheap potatoes. “Cottage pie” is a British or Irish meat pie made with beef mince and a mashed-potato crust (“cottage” = a poor, rural worker); “shepherd’s pie” is one made with minced lamb (“shepherd” = the guys herding the mutton and lamb). Traditionally, cottage pies were served with slices of potato layered over the meat filling (rather than mashed) which, when cooked, looked like the tiles of a cottage roof (get it?). So, I reached for the recipe for “Cottage Pie,” from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food, when I saw I could rustically assemble it in a single casserole dish and I could incorporate a cup of dark beer. I used minced lamb, by the way.

I added 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to my cooked onion and carrots. I get a kick out of using tomato paste; I feel like it’s such a savvy chef’s secret ingredient. I’ve always got a jar in my fridge, ready to use. Fresh thyme is a special and unmistakable herb, always a pleasure to include. My chosen dark beer was the Southampton Publick House Imperial Porter: described as a “robust black ale” (and indeed it was). I love tossing frozen peas into anything, really. I added another 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to the vegetable mix at this point.

After laying the potato tiles atop my casserole, I sprinkled them with salt and pepper, then baked the whole thing for 42 minutes. The meal delivered its promises of hearty, simple fortification. Remember that lamb is a serious meat, unashamedly gamey, I would say.

For a special St. Patrick’s Day treat, check out the annual “Paddy’s Day Food Parade,” at thedailyspud.com, where you’ll see an array of Irish-inspired recipes, from all over the world.

PRICES
Onion (1) = .64¢
Carrots (2) = $1.52
Ground Lamb (1 lb.) = $9.44
Russet Potato (1) = .77¢

RECIPE: you turn toward a cottage pie when you want to exhale with a comforting casserole
PREP TIME:
eat the pie after 90 minutes of prep and cooking
TASTE: lamb is bolstered by its rich gravy and russet slices

Next time, I’ll detox and make a vegetarian meal. I’ll cook “Baked Tofu Steaks and Mushroom Gravy,” from veggiebelly.com, along with “Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon,” from the September 1999 issue of Gourmet magazine. Come back to my site on Wednesday, January 12, and see how a preserved lemon could change my world.