Monday, February 8, 2010

Hyped Up Shepherd's Pie with Mushrooms and Greens

I haven't a single fond childhood memory of shepherd's pie.

It's not that my mother made BAD shepherd's pie.  Or even mediocre shepherd's pie.  The truth is, my mother never made shepherd's pie... or cottage pie... or even cowboy pie.  And I followed in her footsteps. Until sometime this fall.
I was inspired by the turnips at the farmer's market. They were gorgeous things -- all pretty and white, with the most perfect greens attached. I simply had to take them home with me, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I'd do with them.  Fortunately for me, it was the weekend. So, I had plenty of time to sit and wait for inspiration to hit.
Turns out it didn't take long. I ran across a post written by Peter from Kolofagas about Shepherd's Pie.  He made that darned pie look so incredible, I could have just about eaten it right off the page.  And right then and there, I knew what we were having for dinner.

At this point, you're probably starting to wonder what in the world this has to do with my turnips... but, trust me, they were part of my vision. When it came to the turnips themselves, it's possible I envisioned them roasting alongside a well-seasoned, pastured chicken. They'd caramelize in all that lovely schmaltz and become the best thing since mashed potatoes.  But, the greens... why not create a shepherd's pie with some serious nutritional punch by throwing them into the mix?

And so, off to the kitchen we went. Chopped up plenty of vegetables -- onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and shiitake mushrooms.  Oh, yes, and we can't forget about those gorgeous turnip greens.
I sauteed the shiitake mushrooms in a bit of butter. When they were done, I set them aside and gave the vegetables a bit of the same treatment. When theys were just starting to soften, I added about a pound of local ground lamb, browning that up nicely. I threw in a dash of worchestershire sauce, and I added a couple of teaspoons of fresh chopped rosemary and thyme leaves.
Once the herbs were incorporated and I could smell them letting off their fragrant oils, I added a bit of flour to make a roux.  Stirred in about 1/2 cup of zinfandel, allowing the alcohol to dissipate, and then poured in about 1 1/2 cups of mushroom stock and tossed in a couple of bay leaves.
 
While the sauce was simmering, I whipped together my mashed potatoes and set them aside.
By then, the sauce had thickened up nicely and the flavors had really started to meld. I could tell simply by how everything smelled... but I took a quick taste just in case I needed to adjust the seasonings.

Determining that everything was just the way I wanted it, I added what a veg-head like myself would likely consider to be the Pièce de résistance -- those stunning turnip greens.  I should mention that any tender greens would work well here -- swiss chard, mustard greens, or spinach would all do nicely.   I left them in the stew just long enough for them to wilt (4-5 minutes, tops), stirred in the reserved mushrooms, and then I took everything off of the heat.
 
I poured it all into a large baking dish, spreading things out evenly.
 
And then I topped the whole mess with mashed potatoes.  I did go through the effort of fluffing the potatoes up a little bit with a fork before sprinkling on a liberal dose of paprika... and that went a ways in making things look a bit more appetizing.  But, I didn't go through quite the effort Peter did. He piped his potatoes on top of the pie so very beautifully, while I just slopped mine on, right out of the pan.  Some of you may judge me for this. But, I can assure you, the finished product (while it might have been lacking in the looks department) tasted just fine.
 
In fact, once everything has baked together for about 45 minutes, and the kitchen starts filling up with the aroma of the lamb, the veggies, and the intoxicating scent of the rosemary and thyme, you'll forget all about the fact that your potatoes aren't all that pretty.
 
The torture comes when you take the casserole out of the oven. Despite the overwhelming impulse to scoop right in and start devouring your humble feast, it's really a much better idea to allow the casserole to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving. It will be painful, but I assure you, you'll be glad you waited.

After a good rest, you can scoop that delicious mess into bowls.
 
And yeah, you can even garnish your bowl with a nice sprig of fresh rosemary.  It's a lovely touch -- but, like so many niceties, it's not necessary. In fact, the final product would be just as delicious eaten right out of the pan with a big fork.  But, that doesn't make for a very good photo op. Does it?

The reality is, if you're looking for good old-fashioned comfort food, shepherd's pie is where it's at.  If you're looking for a kicked up version with a bit of serious vegetable action -- this recipe does a pretty good job of delivering.  And hey, if you decide to make it on one of those cold winter's nights... invite me over for a bite. It would be difficult to refuse.

Hyped Up Shepherd's Pie with Mushrooms and Greens


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26 comments:

  1. If it appeals to you, just pick it up and figure out what to do next. That's a popular philosophy. You came up with a genius usage. Nothing went to waste!

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  2. Are you free tonight? I had very little exposure to Shepherd's Pie until just recently. I tried it the other day for lunch and loved it. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I can't wait to try it. Your pictures are awesome.

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  3. mmm, looks delicious! we have shepherd's pie planned for tomorrow, actually. we may need to throw some greens in. we froze an absurd amount of lacinato kale from our garden over the summer, and it's been nice to have to toss in so many dishes. great nutrition, great flavor (though oliver may disagree with me on that last point - oddly enough, though, while he will avoid the cooked stuff, he loves eating the raw leaves, weird kid).

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  4. That is the most beautiful, colorful and sophisticated Shepherds Pie I've EVER seen! ~Mary

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  5. One of my favorite dishes. I like your addition of greens a lot. I never pipe my potatoes either, this is homestyle comfort food & should look like it!

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  6. The addition of greens to this classic dish is brilliant! With all the cold wet weather later, I need to make this one night. This is a delicious looking Shepard's pie. Thanks...

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  7. Looks delicious, and homey, despite the lack of "potato piping" - and a great idea to have the greens, too. Sometimes I just don't know what to do with them, and surprisingly, my Husband usually likes them! I'll have to remember this one...

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  8. What is it with Shepherd's Pie lately? I've been craving it too. It must have been Bruce Aidell's recipe in some zine. Bon Appetit maybe. It looked fabulous. Maybe tonight. Ken

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  9. An excellent Shepherd's pie! I love the shiitake mushrooms here!

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  10. I like that you make REAL shepherd's pie - with lamb. So many people don't realize the difference between shepherd's pie (hello! Sheep!) and farmer pie.

    It's funny. When my list of blogs I follow came up on my dashboard today, all I saw was the title of this post and I automatically knew it was one of yours. It's a recipe that toally has your signature on it!

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  11. The pie looks superb Lo. I never made one with lamb and would just love to try it, it sounds delish! Have to disagree with you on the photo op... would have really enjoyed seeing you with a big forkful right out of the pan... :)

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  12. Your recipe sounds and looks wonderful, thanks

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  13. Dude, we must be on the same wavelength! I just posted about Shepard's pie very recently too! I love that you used turnips!

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  14. Strangely enough I made Shepherds Pie for the first time late last year... Now I am actually not sure I have ever eaten turnips ever, but it sounds great and they do look interesting. Can't recall having seen them around here, but I will have a look out for them!

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  15. WOW! This has to be the best shepherd's pie recipe I have ever seen...gourmet all the way! Nice!

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  16. That sounds amazing! I love all the vegetables. Farmers market produce is the best. I think some of the yummies dishes are more pleasing to the stomach than the eyes...but yours achieves both! Thanks for visiting my blog by the way. :)

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  17. Your shepherd's pie sounds and looks delicious...like the way that you made the filling with lots of mushrooms and greens...yummie!

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  18. it's so hard to find a good shepherd's pie. yours looks so, so, delicious!

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  19. Great use of those turnip greens! All the vegetables look delicious in this. Now, I'm wondering why I never make shepherds pie.

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  20. Yes! A thousand times yes, looks so good!

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  21. Great idea! I never know what to do with the greens either and I love shepherd's pie - I haven't had it in years...sounds like it's a good time to make it again!

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  22. Wow... this looks great!! Fantastic pictures and instructions!!

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  23. My husband loves shepherd's pie, I'v bookmarked this, also loved the turnips added to this. Looking forward to sharing recipes with you.

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  24. It has been a long time since we had something like this! Thanks for making me remember the god old days!

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  25. I've never had shpherd's pie, but this recipe inspired me to make it sometime soon. I'll probably use ground turkey and whatever else I find in the fridge...mushrooms and spinach, maybe?

    This would also be great with mashed sweet potatoes as the topping.

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