Everyone knows holidays make for great food experiences.
However, sometimes delicious meals come from after the holidays. That’s especially true for Chris Poremba and his recipe for Shepherd’s Pie, which his family always made the week after Easter with the leftover lamb from their holiday dinner. Poremba made some slight changes to his mom’s original recipe and now makes the dish for his family.
Poremba’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie earned him a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore, which he will donate to St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, Scranton.
Shepherd’s Pie is a staple for many families, but it comes in different incarnations, like those made with ground beef or even vegan or vegetarian options. Technically, though, these variations aren’t “shepherd’s pie,” Poremba said, as that name is reserved for the casserole made with lamb, since shepherds tend to sheep.
“It’s just the ultimate comfort food,” the Dickson City resident said. “It makes me think about traditions of the past and the time spent together (with family). Every Easter, we looked forward to making this and having dinner together.”
Poremba stressed that the recipe is simple, especially if cooks use leftovers to make it. If not, the lamb should be cooked before casserole assembly and baking. He typically prepares his lamb in a rosemary, thyme and garlic rub, using the sous vide method, which cooks the meat inside a vacuum-sealed bag in temperature-controlled water.
This ensures consistency and precision during cooking without any guesswork.
Then, he sears the meat before layering it in a dish with the other ingredients, including pearl onions, which he said “give it the best flavor.” This produces lamb with a tender, buttery consistency, the perfect flavor to blend with the dish’s creamy mashed potatoes, earthy peas and carrots, and savory gravy.
Poremba is a skilled cook thanks to years of watching his parents, Joe and Pat, do the same. He is not only good at it but also found a love for it, and it’s one of his favorite ways to relax. Today, when he’s not meal-prepping for the week and inspiring others to do the same, he does the holiday cooking for his family. Creating these cherished recipes stirs up great memories and nostalgic feelings. Even better, though, Poremba said, is sitting down with his family and sharing a meal, having a drink or swapping recipes with his brother.
“Those are some of the best times, just sitting around and telling stories, B.S.-ing, talking about different recipes we’ve been making,” Poremba said. “It creates new memories, and food is the driving factor there.”
Chris Poremba’s Shepherd’s Pie
2 pounds mashed potatoes
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
(Poremba uses an Irish whiskey cheddar)
12 ounces frozen peas and carrots mix
7 ounces frozen pearl onions
12 ounces gravy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 pounds leg of lamb, cooked and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Add about 3/4 of cheese to mashed potatoes and stir until well combined. Set aside.
In large pot, add carrots, peas and onions and cook until tender. Add gravy, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and combine with vegetables. Add lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through.
Add lamb mixture to baking dish. (Poremba uses a pie dish or any standard baking dish or tin.) Cover top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle remainder of shredded cheese over top.
Place baking dish on top of a cookie sheet in case gravy spills over. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until gravy starts bubbling and potatoes begin to turn golden-brown.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT