A New Take on Shepherd's Pie
by Brenda Kong
My bestie, bless her heart, is an amazing woman but she can't, no matter how hard she tries, stand behind my changing of classic recipes to make things healthier. She’s so funny when she lectured me on what a true Shepherd's Pie should be and she gasps in horror as I explained how I'd replace ground lamb for 99% lean ground turkey. She nearly fainted when I mentioned substituting sweet potatoes; mashed with low fat milk and the barest amount of unsalted butter for the topping. She asked me not to tell her anymore. She's very traditional but I'm a girl who likes food and I love the thought of fusing the old with the new.
Shepherd's Pie is a traditional English dish made with lamb, carrots and peas, seasoned with a tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce based gravy and topped with gloriously buttery mashed potatoes. It's quite rich and sticks to your rib for those long English winters. It's commonly found in pubs and is the ultimate comfort food.
The best Shepherd's Pie I've ever had was at a lovely pub in Washington, D.C. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but I remember the pie. I vividly recall how each unctuous mouth full of gravy-laden lamb seemed to melt on my tongue; that billowing, fluffy crown of buttery mash potatoes beckoning me to indulge with its slightly charred top and so sumptuous filling. Lovely, it was all so lovely. I'm waxing poetic about food, I know! As much as I would love to have that pie day in and day out, I can’t. My poor body just won't let me!
Recreating this recipe with healthier ingredients but still maintaining the comfort food level wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I added mushrooms and artichokes, which are not traditional, but I love them and had them on hand. I used low sodium chicken stock in place of beef stock. Lowering the butter amount and using low fat milk was a little tricky. Replacing butter and cream meant that I'd have to add something else to achieve that creaminess without too many calories. Enter mayonnaise! A tablespoon did the trick, added while mashing the potatoes made them creamy and velvety.
You can find the precise recipe I use and preparation instructions here.
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