On the fourth Sunday of Easter many Christians celebrate Jesus as the Good Shepherd by reading Psalm 23 and John 10. Jesus as Good Shepard has long been a part of the Easter lectionary, but in modern times it has been highlighted in new way.
Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11-15).
Many traditions, including Catholics and Anglicans, also celebrate vocations on this Sunday. Christ calls all Christians to a vocation (literally a calling). A vocation is not the same as a career; it is your life mission. John 10 indicated that Jesus understood his vocation as the Good Shepherd of God’s people. Jesus cares for the world, tending to its every need. Jesus cares for you and is looking out for your interest. And those who have vowed to follow Jesus, take up a portion of his vocation to care for others.
We are making a Celtic Shepherd’s pie for Sunday dinner. Shepherds pie was organically a way for leftover meat to go further. Today it is made from ground meat cooked with onions and other vegetables, and it is topped with mashed potatoes. This is a warm and filling meal and truly is a “comfort food.” May you and your guests feel the comfort of the Good Shepherd around your table as you make and partake of this meal.
Stained glass of Jesus as the Good Shepherd; St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales.
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into inch pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 packets unflavored gelatin (about 5 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces frozen peas
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Grated Parmigiano cheese, for topping
Salt and Pepper
- Place cubed potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 2 inches. Season water with a generous amount of salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife or fork. Drain potatoes, then rinse with hot running water for 30 seconds. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
- Using a potato masher, mash potatoes with 6 tablespoons unsalted butter. Once mashed, cover with plastic wrap (pressing the top of the plastic wrap against the top of the mashed potatoes) and set aside until later step.
- Place 1 1/2 cups chicken stock in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, sprinkle with 2 packets unflavored gelatin, and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large sauce pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 2 1/2 pounds ground beef and cook until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Lower the heat as necessary to prevent scorching. If meat has rendered a lot of fat, ladle as much of it out, as possible, leaving just a few tablespoons.
- Add 1 large yellow onion, 3 medium carrots, 2 ribs celery and 2 medium cloves garlic, stirring and scraping bottom of pot, until just beginning to soften slightly, about 4 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 1 cup red wine and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cook until almost fully evaporated. Add the chicken stock/gelatin mixture, 2 sprigs of thyme, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour over ground meat in pot, then stir in. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick and no longer runny, at least 20 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir in 8 ounces frozen peas and season with salt and pepper.
- Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in a large saucepan until simmering. Add the mashed potatoes and stir gently until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Potatoes are now ready for assembly.
- Set a 9- by 13-inch baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Add meat sauce, being careful to fill only halfway. Top with mashed potatoes, spreading them with a spatula to cover surface completely. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
- Transfer to oven and bake until top is browned and casserole is fully heated through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.