Slainte! In a normal year, Andrew and I would have spent the Labor Day weekend at the Kansas City Irish Fest.

This is not a normal year.

I love (I’m going to say “I” because I think sometimes Andrew just tolerates my passion. He’s descended from Volga Germans, so…) festivals. They’re, well, FESTIVE! And everything down South is an occasion; I miss that and when there is an occasion in this area, I try to participate. 

September in Kansas usually starts with the Irish Fest, then each weekend is a series of art shows or fall festivals, all the way up to Halloween. Thanks to the pandemic, there is no Plaza Art Fair, no Renaissance Festival, no Baldwin Maple Leaf Festival. Heck, there haven’t even been and KCBS barbecue competitions to go to.

The Kansas City Irish Fest, though, has managed an amazing thing. If you visit the website (2020.kcirishfest.com), they created virtual concerts, “Take and Bake” Zoom cooking classes, “Take and Drink” Zoom Jameson whiskey tastings, even arts and crafts for the kids.

From the livestream benefit concert to some highly amusing T-shirts and face masks, the Irish Fest Committee took a pile of dung and turned it into a pot of rainbows. However, you kind of needed to be in the city to be immersed.  

So, instead of tromping around Crown Center with a Guinness in one hand and a bannock in the other, roaming from music stage to art alley to dancing stage, I sat around and moped.

Instead of jumping up and down to The Pogues, singing along with The Elders and critiquing the various shades of red hair (natural and not), I settled in for a big pity party.

Andrew to the rescue! There was still a chunk of lamb in the freezer, and we had just bought five pounds of Yukon gold potatoes. Andy made a Shepherd’s Pie. We laid in a store of Guinness Pub Draft. I put on music from The Chieftains and we had our own little Irish fest right here.

Erin Go Bragh! Let’s get cooking.

VVV

This recipe is from wholesomedish.com. I just about missed my deadline for today, so I borrowed this one. It’s easy to follow, and if you just can stand lamb, use ground beef instead. If you have fresh herbs, peas and carrots, those are better too.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Meat Filling:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 lb. ground lamb

2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves

1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup beef broth

1 cup frozen mixed peas & carrots

Potato Topping:

1 1/2 - 2 lb. russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup half & half

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Add the oil to a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground (or cubed – RM) lamb to the skillet and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, and and pepper. Stir well.

Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the meat is browned, stirring occasionally. Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until well incorporated and no clumps of tomato paste remain.

Add the broth, peas and carrots. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Set the meat mixture aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and make the potato topping.

Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, 10-15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the potatoes to the hot pot. Let the potatoes rest in the hot pot for 1 minute to evaporate any remaining liquid. (This wholesome writer is quite thorough—RM)

Add butter, half & half, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are mixed together.

Add the parmesan cheese to the potatoes. Stir until well combined. (I toss in half a brick of cream cheese, too — RM). 

Assemble the casserole: Pour the meat mixture into large baking dish. Spread it out into an even layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Carefully spread into an even layer.

If the baking dish looks very full, place it on a rimmed baking sheet so that the filling doesn’t bubble over into your oven. Bake uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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