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Lighten Up That Shepherd's Pie

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie and what with the weather holding fast at -30000556C for the last week or so, a young girl's thoughts turn to comfort foods. It's been all stews, soups and things that bubble up in the oven around here.

This shepherds pie is a lightened up version of the classic, subbing chicken in for the ground meat, it leaves out the cream in favour of a mixture of stock and evaporated milk and you replace 1/3 of the potato /sweet potato with cauliflower for the topping. If you really want to lighten things up , you can replace as much as half of the potato with cauliflower if you like but it won't be quite as creamy. As always, feel free to change up your veg - if you don't like zucchini, replace it with something you do like - you know the drill by now.

It's not that I don't enjoy a heavier, meatier shepherds pie once in a while but when I can make something a bit healthier without sacrificing the Yum, I like to do that.

Chicken Shepherd's Pie 

makes about 6 servings

1 tbls olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 lb ground chicken ( I ground my own from thighs but you can buy it pre ground)
1 tbls tomato paste
1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tbls cornstarch
fresh thyme ( a small sprig of fresh or about 2 tsp or to taste of dried)
small handful fresh italian parsley, chopped
2 lbs combined potato/sweet potato/cauliflower
2 tbls butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (depends on how thick you want them)
Preheat oven to 375F.

Put the potato and the sweet potato in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain and put it back in the same pot. At the same time I put my chopped up cauliflower in another pot of salted water and cooked it separately so that I could puree it before adding it to the potato/sweet potato. You can put the cooked, drained cauliflower in a food processor, a blender, use an immersion blender or you trusty bullet, like I did. Add that pureed cauliflower to the pot that contains the drained potato/sweet potato, mash in the butter and then start pouring in the buttermilk while you continue to mash until you get the texture you like. Taste, salt and pepper, taste and adjust until it's right. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a non stick sauté pan over med heat and sauté the onion and garlic for about five minutes until it softens. Add the ground meat and continue to cook until the pink is gone. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper and then add the carrot and celery and continue to cook for another five or six minutes. Throw in the zucchini and cook, stirring a couple of times for another five minutes. Push all of that to one side of the pan and add in the tomato paste and cook that for a minute on it's own to brown it (it's something that many of the Italian chefs I like do so I do it too) before adding 1 cup of stock, the thyme and parsley. Cover, turn the heat to medium low and let it cook for about ten minutes. Remove the cover, turn the heat up to medium high. Stir the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and add that to your chicken and vegetables and let it come up to a simmer and let that cook for a couple of minutes and then remove it from the heat.

You can do one of two things now. You can transfer your meat mixture into a baking dish or casserole or individual baking dishes OR if you used an oven proof sauté pan you can bake it right in there. I used three smaller casserole dishes because I knew we wouldn't eat it all and I wanted to freeze one.

Fill the dish up 3/4 of the way with the chicken and then top that with a nice, thick layer of the mashed potatoes , pop them in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown or for about 30 to 35 minutes.

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