Saturday, April 21, 2012

Veggie Friendly Shepherd's Pie

I'm always looking for ways to turn some of my favorite meat dishes into vegetarian-friendly fare. Sometimes tofu is a good substitute for protein in a recipe, other times a few containers of mushrooms add a meaty consistency and complex flavor.  It all depends!  I do enjoy experimenting with recipes, but it can be frustrating when something doesn't turn out.  Mostly because that means I'm going to be hungry!  When I was asked by CBS Minnesota to come up with some vegetarian recipes for St. Patrick's Day, I jumped at the chance.  I wanted to come up with a shepherd's pie that was flavorful and meaty....a recipe where you wouldn't miss the ground beef.  I did some homework, checked out other recipes, and came up with this delicious dish.  I gave some leftovers to my parents, and even my dad, the big meat-eater in the family, loved the mushroom substitution!  That's when I knew it was a good one!  Enjoy this hearty meal any time of the year, especially now that we're experiencing chilly, rainy spring weather.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Food Network
serves two

2 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and in large dice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced
1/4 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup mushroom stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste

In a large pot, place the diced potatoes and cover with water. Salt the water liberally and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and return to the cooking pot. Add a tablespoon of butter and the milk and mash until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside (or do this during the remaining cooking).

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of butter until melted. Add in the mushrooms and cook until browned, stirring infrequently. About 5 minutes. Once browned, remove from pan and season with salt and pepper.

Return the pan to medium heat and add another tablespoon of butter. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, cooking until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and herbs, cooking again until softened, another 5 minutes.

Whisk together the mushroom stock, red wine, and tomato paste. Add the mixture to the vegetables in the pan to deglaze, using a spoon to scrape up the cooked bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer and allow to cook until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms back into the pan and cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Taste for seasonings.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a small baking dish, pour the vegetable mixture. Dot the top of the veggies with the mashed potatoes, using a spoon (or your hands!) to smooth the potatoes over the top of the dish, sealing the edges as best you can. Then pinch the mashed potato topping in spots to create texture, which will help the potatoes get browned and crisp. Bake for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are a bit browned.

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