The word ‘shepherd‘ is one that’s followed me all of my life. You see, I grew up on a sheep farm that my father affectionately calls the ‘Shepherd Shack’. And although I live on the opposite side of the country from where I was raised … I currently live on Shepherd Avenue.
Ironically, my mother rarely (if ever) made Shepherd’s Pie.
If I take shepherding at face value, I guess I could consider myself a modern day shepherd of sorts. While I no longer tend to animals, I have always been the diplomatic person within my group of friends who everyone turns to for guidance and advice. Mind you, I’m not saying they should but they do.
The exact recipe for what constitutes a true shepherd’s pie (versus a cottage pie) can be debated but I think it’s a silly waste of time. I’ve seen blog posts written with one opinion or another … and some people take this pie way too seriously. No matter how you make it, it just tastes good and that’s what matters most to me.
The version I made tonight uses the seasonal produce I have on hand which will likely add more controversy for those who have strong feelings on the subject. Since I’m cutting back on red meat, I’ve substituted ground turkey in place of beef or lamb. I’ve used a mix of onions, carrots, peas, and fennel for the filling. And, I’ve topped with a creamy blend of sweet potatoes and butter.
Seasonal Shepherd’s Pie
1 lb sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup frozen peas (not necessary to thaw)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup water (or beef stock)
salt/pepper to taste
Begin by preparing the sweet potatoes, peel and sliced into 1″ thick slices. Place into a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can easily slide into the slices (i.e. fork tender). Remove from burner and drain. Add 1 tablespoon butter and mash until smooth. Set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. When pan begins to smoke, add ground turkey. Cook the turkey until fully browned and no pink is visible. Add onion, carrot, and fennel; stir to combine. Add 1 cup beef stock and cover the pan. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until all of the vegetables are fork tender. Stir in peas.
In a small bowl, mix together the 1/4 water, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons flour until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly stir this paste into the ground turkey mixture to thicken the juices into a light gravy. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute. Adjust seasonings and remove from heat.
I decided to make individual portions using small stoneware pots but you can also bake in a rectangle pan. Pour the meat mixture into the pan then spread the mashed sweet potato mixture over the top making sure to push it to the very edge of the pan.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. When baking is finished, turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the top. I remembered at the last minute that the stoneware pots I am using are not supposed to be used under the broiler (@#$@%#@). So, I didn’t get nicely browned tops as I had hoped.
I love how quick these are to make and how filling they are, especially on a cold night. The sweet potatoes also help to fulfill my love of sweet-savory combination’s. The contrast in sweet and savory is wonderfully good and it makes me wonder why people still use white potatoes to make shepherd’s pie.
Fortunately, I made these in individual portions or else I’d keep on eating the whole pan until it was gone!
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