In Argentina, restaurant food is so meaty that finding vegetables on a menu can prove to be difficult. The approach of chef Pablo del Rio, of the excellent restaurant Siete Cocinas in Mendoza, the capital of Argentina’s wine country, is to take a more modern approach while still respecting tradition. His sensational lamb and mushroom pie is baked in a traditional outdoor mud oven, which gives it a special flavour.
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Lamb in Argentina is also superb, much of it coming from the hills and valleys of Patagonia. Pine mushrooms are a delicacy in many countries including Argentina; in Canada, we grow huge amounts that are dried and shipped abroad. They are expensive and hard to find, though; shiitake makes a good substitute.
2 ounces (60 grams) dried pine or shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thickly diced
1½ cups hot water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds (1 kilogram) boneless lamb from the shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup red wine
1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
1 cup beef or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds (1 kilogram) peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup butter
½ cup warm milk
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Cover mushrooms with the water and soak for 20 minutes. Strain mushrooms, reserving liquid and mushrooms separately.
Heat oil in oven-proof pot on medium-high heat. Working in batches, add lamb and sear until browned on all sides (about 6 minutes in total). Remove lamb from pot and reserve.
Reduce heat to medium, add onions and carrots and sauté for 2 minutes or until softened.
Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring until flour is golden brown. Add wine, mushroom liquid and stock and whisk to boil. Return lamb to pot and add mushrooms.
Cover pot and place in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender.
Uncover and cook for an additional 15 to 30 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender and sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer lamb mixture to a deepdish pie plate.
While lamb is baking, peel and cut potatoes into even-sized chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and boil potatoes for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and return to pot over low heat to dry any remaining moisture.
Increase oven heat to 375 F.
Combine milk and butter in a small pot over medium heat and cook until butter has melted. Add milk mixture to hot potatoes and mash until smooth, seasoning with salt to taste. Spoon mashed potato over lamb mixture and spread evenly using a fork to create texture. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until juices are bubbling and the potatoes are lightly golden.