Shepherd’s pie is good for the winter-weary soul

When the snow falls and we’re housebound, there’s nothing easier or more comforting than shepherd’s pie.

Traditionally, it is a peasant dish of lamb and vegetables topped with browned mashed potatoes. When made with beef it’s called cottage pie, but it’s delicious stuffed with a range of ingredients: chicken, duck, pork, ham, fish, sausage, or any other seasonal vegetable. No matter what you call it, this is a meal for those who are winter-weary and make great use of the junk from previous meals.

My favorite version of this classic recipe is packed with veggies and herbs. All kinds of greens are great candidates for pie, depending on the season. Right now, I favor roasted root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, turnips, sunchokes, golden beets, and squash. Though most recipes tie the filling up with a floury béchamel sauce, a spoonful or two of the mashed potato seasoning gives it some body without the mushy flavor and keeps it gluten-free. Shots of wine and Worcestershire sauce give it a meaty boost.

The mashed potato crown, in contrast to the pastry crust that tops most pies, defines this dish. I like to use Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn, with their deep, buttery color, and mash them with parsnips for a touch of sweet earthiness.

The original shepherd’s pie recipe was created as a way to use up leftovers, so it’s open to interpretation. Try switching up the herbs for curry spice or add some crushed chilies for a kick. This makes for a simple weeknight dinner served straight from the pot or Dutch oven it’s made in; for a more formal presentation, divide the filling among the individual baking dishes before topping it with the potatoes and baking it to a nice golden, buttery finish.

Shepherd’s Pie (vegetarian version)

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Recipe can easily be halved or leftovers freeze well. To roast the vegetables, cut them into 1 1/2-inch pieces and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and well browned around the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. By Beth Dooley.

For the filling:

• 2 pounds Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, peeled and quartered

• 1 medium parsnip, peeled and quartered

• 1 tablespoon. salt

• 1/2 tbsp. heavy cream

• 1/2 tbsp. milk

• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the stuffing:

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 1 large onion, diced

• 2 crushed garlic cloves

• 1/2 lb. sliced ​​cremini mushrooms

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 2 tbsp. tomato paste

• 1/2 tbsp. Dry white wine

• 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth

• 3 pounds roasted root vegetables (see note)

• 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

• 1 tablespoon. chopped thyme


To prepare the dressing: In a large deep pot, combine the potatoes and parsnips with enough water to cover and then add the salt. Place the pot over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Transfer the potatoes and parsnips to the pot and add the cream, milk and butter and mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large deep saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until releasing their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, wine, and stock, scraping up any browned bits that stick to the bottom. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the mashed potatoes and simmer until the liquid thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix the greens, parsley and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the filling to a baking dish or several baking dishes. Top with mashed potatoes. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the mashed potatoes are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Beth Dooley is the author of “The Perennial Kitchen”. Find it at bethdooleyskitchen. com.