As my first post-collegiate job, I spent 4 years working at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston where I worked in a series of positions including restaurant manager, food & beverage controller and weekend resident manager of the hotel. The hours are long and intense working in hotels but I loved every minute of it. But when the weekend came, Saturday morning I was ready to escape the city and head up the coast to enjoy the scenery and to re-charge my batteries.
I had splurged on a brand new yellow Triumph TR-6 complete with red line tires and British flag and oh did I feel like ‘all that’ while cruising up the coast with the top down! One of my first stops was not too far north of Boston at the so-called ‘Singing Beach’ where during the warmer months I’d stop to take a casual stroll in this cool little strand of beach. The grains of sand on the beach have a coarse texture that create a ‘singing’ sound when you walk. It was like a walking massage for your feet and after 30 minutes you entire lower legs are on fire.
So by now it’s mid-morning and after all that ‘exercise’ it was usually time for a little appetizer so off to the nearby town of Ipswich. Famous up and down the Eastern seaboard for its fried clams. These luscious, meltingly tender, whole belly clams are deep fried (often in lard) resulting in a light crunchy crust but remain sweet and briny inside… food porn. The local fishermen say their special flavor comes from the fact that they come from mud flats which create a richer taste and come without the grit that comes from the sand flats… not unlike the notion of the ‘terroir’ or the character of the land and soil that give a distinctive personality to some of the world’s best wines.
During the colorful months of autumn my drives often extended all the way to the state of Maine. The turning of the leaves is followed religiously by the media in the New England states with local ‘Fritz Coleman’ types all competing to predict when the ‘peak color weekends’ will take place in their respective areas. The viewing of the leaves alone make the drive worth every minute but I came across a dish indigenous to one area of Maine that put the day completely over the top… Lobster Shepherd’s Pie. Nearly everyone on Maine’s Little Cranberry Island makes this pie with varying ingredients added but it’s basically a lobster pie with vegetables, almost always including carrots, in a cream sauce, covered with buttery mashed potatoes and baked until bubbly and golden.
BTW, Shepherd’s pie derives its name from its primary meat content, which is traditionally either lamb or mutton. Similar dishes with beef or other meat as a featured ingredient are more correctly called cottage pie. Both dishes likely date back to the 1700s, although the earliest recorded use of the name dates to the 1870s.
So if you’re looking for a special dish for the holiday season this one is fairly simple to prepare, rich, indulgent, and oh so delicious. My version is really more of a ‘Lobster Newburg’ approach to the sauce made with Bristol Cream sherry, cream and fresh tarragon. I would recommend you serve a small appetizer portion of this dish due to its richness unless you’re really starving and willing to go all in. Whip this up some chilly night and you’re going get some serious love comin’ your way!
Recipe – Maine Lobster Shepherd’s Pie
Note: Serves 4
» 4 each 10 oz soufflé dishes
» As needed Sweet butter
» 10-12 ounces Cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
» 1 TBS Clarified butter
» 1 TBS Minced shallots
» ¼ cup Leeks, thinly sliced, white part only
» 1 tsp. Fresh tarragon, chopped
» 2 ounces Harvey’s Bristol Cream
» 2 cups Chicken stock, lobster stock, or clam juice
» 1 cup Heavy cream
» 1 tsp. Paprika (not smoked)
» 1 tsp Tomato paste
» 1/3 cup Peas, cooked
» 1/3 cup Diced carrots, blanched until tender
» 2 cups Mashed potatoes, prepared, room temp
» 2 TBS Butter melted
» 2 TBS Grated Parmesan
» 1 TBS Chopped chives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter inside of soufflé dishes well and set aside. Place clarified butter into saucepan, add shallots, leeks and tarragon and cook over medium heat until just translucent. Add sherry and reduce by half. Next add stock, paprika and tomato paste and cook until slightly reduced.
Ready for the Oven
Add cream and cook until lightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lobster meat, peas and carrots. Spoon mixture into buttered soufflé dishes until ½” from top. Scoop mashed potatoes into a pastry bag with star tip and pipe the top of each dish covering completely. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan and drizzle with melted butter. (Dishes can be prepared up to this point ahead of time and held at room temp for 2 hours until cooking).
I got your OMG right here
Place dishes on metal sheet pan and bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the dish is bubbling around the edges and potatoes are lightly browned. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
Hot and Bubbling