I’ve been fortunate enough to make a few trips to New York City in February for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Madison Square Garden. Those trips have created so many great memories, but one stands out. Being me, it’s food related.
I’d never experienced cold like I encountered in New York on Valentine’s Day weekend of 2016. The real temperature reached -1 that first evening; the wind chill was around -30. Yes, there’s a negative sign in front of that 30. My traveling companions and I were told repeatedly that it was the coldest Valentine’s Day weekend ever experienced in New York, breaking a 100-year-old record. I didn’t doubt it. Getting off the plane — and I mean the moment I stepped foot onto the jetway leading into the LaGuardia terminal — I was freezing, despite having donned a heavy parka.
Outside, snow boots were a necessity; feet clad only in tennis shoes began aching from the cold within seconds of leaving a building. Ski caps, balaclavas and scarves weren’t fashion statements — they were skin savers. Exposed skin was aching and wind blistered within minutes of going outdoors. I asked a friend, not in idle speculation, either, whether the sclera on one’s eyes could freeze.
All that to say this: When we sat down for dinner at an old-style Irish pub close to the hotel on the first night of this particular visit, I had only one thing in mind: hot, carb-heavy comfort food. I perused the menu; it didn’t include gumbo or jambalaya, of course. But my eye stopped at “shepherd’s pie.” Steaming ground beef stew with vegetables, covered in piping hot mashed potatoes — yes, please, with a side of toasted garlic bread. I left feeling warm and cozy — and reluctant to head back outdoors.
While we never deal with cold like that here in SWLA, we still love to heat up the big pot and cook up a batch of hot comfort food when the temp dips below 70 — heck, we turn down the thermostat in the house if we have to. This winter, why not add shepherd’s pie to your comfort food lineup? Here’s a traditional recipe using ground beef (the truly traditional recipes use lamb), and also a healthier version with ground turkey and sweet potatoes. Enjoy!
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1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled 4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cups milk 1/4 cups sour cream
kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
FOR MEAT MIXTURE
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup frozen peas 1 cup frozen corn
2 tbsp. flour 2/3 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400°. In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until totally soft, 16-18 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes until smooth. Add melted butter, milk and sour cream. Mash together until fully incorporated, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make beef mixture: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant and softened, five minutes. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink, five minutes more. Drain fat.
Stir in frozen peas and corn and cook until warmed through, three minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle meat with flour and stir to evenly distribute. Cook one minute more and add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and let mixture thicken slightly, five minutes.
Top beef mixture with an even layer of mashed potatoes and bake 20 minutes or until there is very little liquid visible and mashed potatoes are golden. Broil if desired. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve.
Turkey And Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
(From Better Homes and Gardens)
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, halved 1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/2 tsp. salt 12 oz. uncooked ground turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onion 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium) 1/2 cup frozen yellow corn
1/4 cup water 18-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. snipped fresh sage or 1/2 tsp. dried sage, crushed; fresh sage (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, cook sweet potatoes and garlic, covered, in enough lightly salted boiling water to cover for 15-20 minutes or until tender; drain. Mash with a potato masher or beat with an electric mixer on low speed. Gradually add milk and salt, mashing or beating to make potato mixture light and fluffy. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is brown, stirring to break up turkey as it cooks. Drain, if needed. Stir in zucchini, carrots, corn, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sage, and pepper to turkey mixture; heat through. Spoon turkey mixture into a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish or casserole, spreading evenly. Spoon mashed potato mixture in mounds on turkey mixture.
Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. If desired, sprinkle with additional fresh sage before serving. Makes 4 servings.