08 February 2013

Shepherd's Pie gets a makeover

I love Shepherd’s Pie, from the rich stew underneath to the crusty, golden brown mashed potatoes on top.  It’s a staple in British and Irish pubs, and it was a special treat we would occasionally eat at home growing up.  I equate it with cold winter nights, adventures abroad (in which I learned that many of my family's staple meals were merely rip-offs from the motherland), and the massive tangle that is Midwest-Irish-British-whatever-the-hell culture. But it’s filled with stuff I don’t eat much anymore: cheap cuts of meat, butter, loads of white potatoes… The trick is keep what’s best about the pie--the rich, hearty flavors and that fantastic crust on top--without creating a heart attack on a plate.  Easy.

Shepherd’s Pie, Made Over

1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 small parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
¼ cup plain yogurt
4 oz. grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot of salty water, boil the cauliflower, potato, and parsnips until soft.  Drain and mash by hand with the garlic, yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cheddar cheese.  This step can be done the day before and refrigerated or can occur while you make the filling.

Olive oil
4 oz. dried shitake mushrooms, hydrated, drained of excess water, and chopped
½ cup broccoli florets and stems, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pinch salt, and the smoked paprika and sauté until tender.  Stir in the broccoli, mushrooms, pepper, tomato paste, and red wine, lower to medium low heat, and cover.  Allow to stew about 10 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in chives and salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a a large pie pan or medium-sized casserole dish with a bit of olive oil.  Pour in the vegetable stew and smooth out so it’s even.  Spread the potato mixture on top, gently smoothing like a thick layer of icing over the stew.  If the potatoes are cold, cook uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F before broiling; if everything is hot, place under the broiler and cook about 10 minutes, or until potato mixture gets browned.

Please, for the love of god, have this with a porter or stout while shouting over cheesy 80s punk music from the U.K.