Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Turkey Shepherd's Pie


For a long time, I was skeptical of making, ordering, or in general eating shepherd's pie. To the best of my knowledge I have never met a person who herds sheep, so it's not like I have a prejudice against shepherds. And trust me, I love pie. So neither of those things were the problem. Believe it or not, my reservations about this one-dish wonder came from eating it at my favorite restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory. Like everything else on their menu, it sounded delicious: "Ground Beef, Mushrooms, Carrots, Peas, Zucchini, and Onions in a Delicious Sauce Covered with a Mashed Potato-Parmesan Cheese Crust." (Yes, I am quoting from their menu. No, I do not have it memorized....not all of it, anyway.) But for whatever reason, at least the one time I ordered it, it was Gross with a capital G. The veggies were hard to the point of being crunchy and something was definitely off in the sauce. I guess since then I figured that if even the wonder-working Cheesecake Factory couldn't pull off a good shepherd's pie, I certainly couldn't expect to. (Then again, it has been a staple of English cuisine since at least the 1790s...though I'm not entirely certain whether that's a pro or a con.)

Still, I am a big-time sucker for any one-dish meal that packs meat, vegetables, and a starch in one 9 x 13 (or 8 x 8 or 11 x 7) Pyrex dish. Freezable, portable, and compact can all be great qualities in a dinner, especially under certain circumstances, like taking a meal to someone recuperating from surgery, or your next ice cave spelunking trip. So despite my bad meal at Cheesecake Factory, and the fact that my shepherding experience is limited to shooing sheep out of the way so I can exit the petting zoo, at some point I decided to give shepherd's pie another try. I'm happy to report that I have now made this several times and the vegetables are not crunchy, nor is there anything funky about the sauce. In fact, the combination of juicy turkey and hearty veggies on bottom and creamy mashed potatoes on top is delicious! Great comfort food, made just a little healthier by swapping the traditional ground beef or lamb for turkey. Give it a try and you may decide it's a good thing this British casserole has endured for over two centuries. 

Turkey Shepherd's Pie
(Inspired by Skinnytaste)

Ingredients:

4 c. prepared mashed potatoes* 
1 lb. lean ground turkey
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables
2 Tbsp. flour
1 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 c. shredded Cheddar cheese 
paprika, salt, and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large sauté pan, brown the turkey and season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside to drain on paper towels. 

3. In the same pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add celery and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add flour and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, frozen vegetables, and cooked turkey, and mix well. Simmer on low 5-10 minutes.

4. Spread the meat mixture evenly on the bottom of an 11 x 7 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, then sprinkle with paprika and Cheddar.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

*These can be leftover, made from frozen (like Trader Joe's excellent version), or made fresh by boiling 1 1/2 lbs of peeled potatoes for 20 minutes and mashing with 1/4 c. butter and several tablespoons of milk (season with salt and pepper to taste).



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