take comfort with a shepherd

I love leftovers, perhaps I’ve mentioned that before. Another delicious meal with half the effort… yes please. In fact sometimes I intentionally cook more than I know we’ll eat in a single meal just to insure there will be something yummy leftover. Mashed potatoes are the perfect example. Why mashed potatoes of all things you may ask… Well for shepherd’s pie of course!

I happen to be a fan of casseroles (well maybe not tuna noodle, but certainly turkey tetrazzini) primarily because of the minimal effort they require to turn simple ingredients into a “May I have seconds please?” dinner. My family seems to agree since one of their all time favorite meals has to be shepherds pie. They can demolish one of these babies in the blink of an eye and even when I double the recipe, the leftovers that remain are often little more than a single serving. But really who could blame them, it is after all one of the most comforting of one pot meals going— snowed in, bummed out or tired beyond belief… shepherd’s pie to the rescue!

Shepherd’s pie could be considered the marinara sauce of casseroles, everyone has their own way of making it and everyone thinks their recipe is the best. My version calls for ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and to make it the perfect busy week night dinner I use frozen vegetables rather than fresh. As a rule I don’t like frozen vegetables primarily because they tend to turn out soggy, however in this case I think frozen veggies work beautifully; perfectly diced, cooked in a flash and as easy as it gets. Throw in some lovely leeks and diced onion, a bit of fresh thyme and a few spices, smother everything in gravy and top it with a lovely crust of mashed potatoes and holy cow deliciousness. So I guess I can’t blame by family for their voracious appetites… I mean seriously, how could I expect anything less?!?

Turkey Shepherds Pie
Depending on my mood I either make one big casserole, two small or several individual ones. The choice is yours but regardless of the size they’re delicious!

shepherds pie4

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peal onions
3-4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the leeks and onions and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large chunks, about 6-8 minutes or until just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the flour, garlic, poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and all the frozen veggies and stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Grease a deep ceramic baking dish and add to it the turkey mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake until browned on top and the mixture is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. If the potatoes have not browned enough turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp them up. (Alternately to really make this a one pot meal you can sauté everything in a ovenproof skillet, top it with the mashed potatoes and slide the whole thing into the oven to bake.)
  4. Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.
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It’s Not Swanson, but…

When I was a kid all I longed for was processed, artificially flavored and preservative laden food. What I got was all-natural, homemade and hippy-dippy food. My mother tortured me with her denial of Lucky Charms and Skippy Peanut Butter! And I believe I’ve mentioned before how scarred that “summer of carob” has left me. (Mind you she’s now the woman who shows up with mammoth sized Jet-Puffed marshmallows for my kids and is shocked that they don’t know what Twinkies are. Sigh. Clearly she’s still out to torture me.) Anyway, the one less than all-natural delight that somehow made it under her radar were frozen pot pies. And oh how I loved them!

Fast forward 30 years and low-and-behold it turns out that I’m a hippy-dippy food feeding mom as well. However unlike my bratty junk-food desiring childhood self, my children actually think my all-natural tendencies are great! They seriously don’t know (and really aren’t interested in finding out) what Twinkies or frozen pizza taste like. Amazing, right? Maybe they were switched at birth… However all that being said, I still think fondly of those frozen pot pie nights and while I’m not racing out to fill my freezer with them, I decided to try and recreate one of my favorite childhood tastes for my own little loves.

The carrots weren’t perfectly cut little squares, there were pearl onions in the gravy and it didn’t come in a lovely aluminum pie dish, but this chicken pot pie was good enough that even eight year old me might have considered it worth eating. Especially if it came along with an ice cold bottle of Yoo-hoo…

Chicken Pot Pie
This recipe makes enough filling for two pies, we had one for dinner and I froze the other one (unbaked) for use another night. However feel free to half the recipe if you only want to make one pie.

3 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1″ pieces
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups frozen pearl onion, defrosted
1 leek, sliced thin
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cups frozen peas
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 sheets puff pastry (or 2 prepared pie crusts)
1 egg, for wash
1 tbsp. water, for wash

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the chicken, pearl onions and leeks until nearly cooked through, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer everything to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Stir in the peas and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the milk, flour, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper. Slowly add the milk mixture to the veggies in the pan and stir until thickened. Add back the chicken, onions and leek and stir until blended.
  4. Spoon the chicken and vegetable mixture into two 9-inch deep dish pie plates. Cover with the puff pastry (or pie crust). In a small bowl whisk together the egg and 1 tbsp. of water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the pie, place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*adapted from megan barry