This timeless dish made a serious splash in 2019.
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Shepherd's Pie
Credit: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Torie Cox; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Culinary trends come and go, but this year’s most popular recipes prove that certain classics are here to stay. One dish that’s been a staple on Mama’s dinner table for as long as we can remember has topped the charts as the most-searched recipe of 2019. You know it, you love it: Shepherd’s Pie.

According to Google’s Year in Search 2019, Shepherd’s Pie was the year’s most sought-after recipe, with Chicken Parmigiana and Ham Glaze hot on its heels. Although Shepherd’s Pie first gained traction across the pond, it quickly spread across the Atlantic to become a staple on American dinner tables.

Like the South’s beloved casseroles, Shepherd’s Pie promises an entire meal in one dish, combining meat, potatoes, and vegetables in an elegant skillet supper. But if a casserole is Grandma’s anytime staple, this Shepherd’s Pie is the cool, sophisticated cousin. It combines the ease of a one-dish supper with the composed layers of modern small plates—a hearty, meaty filling mingles with chopped vegetables beneath a crown of lightly-torched mashed potatoes.

Our showstopping recipe for a scratch-made Shepherd’s Pie boasts quite a few virtues. It’s instantly recognizable as a square meal (which will appease the traditionalists of the bunch), simple enough to satisfy the kids, and impressive enough to be a resounding favorite amongst dinner party guests. Although the Shepherd’s Pie of your childhood may have been built on a base of ground beef, it can’t really be called a Shepherd’s Pie unless it’s made with lamb, so we’ve stayed true to the dish’s original roots in this recipe (a beef version is actually called Cottage Pie).

All you’ll need to pull this recipe off is a skillet and a slow-cooker. Don’t be afraid of the 7-hour cook time—most of that happens in the slow-cooker, leaving your hands free and filling your house with a deliciously savory aroma. After browning the lamb in a skillet, let it cook down with some tomatoes, chicken broth, and ground cumin, and go about the rest of your day.

This recipe is a lesson in prioritization. It lays out where you should really be investing your time—in slow-cooking the lamb shanks until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender—and where it’s perfectly acceptable to take a few shortcuts (go ahead and use prepared mashed potatoes, spiked with heavy cream for extra richness; they’ll sop up all that rich sauce, anyways). The overachievers will make their mashed potatoes from scratch, and the post-holiday revelers will use yesterday’s leftover potatoes. That’s the beauty of this Shepherd’s Pie: it’s achievable for any cook, novice or experienced.

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The carrots cook with a bouquet of fresh herbs and alliums to lighten up the notoriously heavy dish and bring a lovely fragrance; a splash of red wine brings even more depth. From there, make a roux by adding flour and beef stock, thickening the sauce before you add in the shredded lamb and peas. Don’t bother piping the mashed potato topping: we’re partial to rustic spatula swoops, which create a stunning, textured appearance.

Once you’ve assembled all the layers of this simple dish, pop the complete pie under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve a lovely torched mashed potato crust. This step will add a dimension of texture and a hint of charred flavor to complement the slow-cooked lamb. Dig into this hearty Shepherd’s Pie on a weeknight or serve it as the centerpiece of a gathering. It’s sure to satisfy any crowd.