A Shepherd’s Repast
What is with this stupid weather?! I know we’re a mere two weeks from the autumnal equinox, but it seriously feels like summer bypassed us all together here in San Diego. We had about ten total days of sunshine and heat, and it looks like we’re heading straight into winter with zero apology or remorse from the weather gods. *Raises fist to the sky and shakes it vigorously* The upside of it all is that I’ve allowed myself to start comfort food season early this year. No waiting till December to roll out the rich, warming foods that calm the soul and ease the mind.
This week I managed to get my mitts on some of the elusive Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers. This is an occasional brew Stone makes, complimenting the dynamic peat-smoked malts with roasted, smoked jalapeno peppers (chipotles). I think the technical term for it is “bomb-diggity.” I knew a savory dish was the way to go with this one but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I asked the boyfriend for some input and he had the answer right away: Shepherd’s Pie. Leave it to a Brit.
I’ve made Shepherd’s Pie on many occasions, so I improvised this recipe, just replacing half of the broth with the beer (and adding several liberal splashes along the way for good measure–I can’t help myself). I also replaced the traditional lamb or beef with turkey. You know, because it’s “healthier.” Feel free to substitute whatever protein and broth you prefer. And the spices are up to you. Use whatever strikes your fancy. Go where your inner Brit guides you.
I’m not going to lie, it was amazing. The smoky beer made a rich, complex gravy. And again, you could really taste the beer! YAY! The particular batch of chipotle porter I used wasn’t too spicy, so the pie was lacking in the heat department (kind of unfortunate, but I could easily have tossed in some cayenne to kick it up a bit). And honestly, I feel like I would have had almost identical results with just the basic Stone Smoked Porter (lucky for you, since that is much easier to get ahold of). Regardless, the dish was boyfriend approved, and that holds some clout when it comes to traditional UK entrees.
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers (plus a couple extra splashes)
2 Tbsp. flour
1 c. frozen mixed veggies (I used peas, carrots, corn, and green beans)
3 lbs. potatoes (I used red, but use whatever potatoes you would usually use for mashed potatoes)
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. butter
Various spices (I used thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder to taste)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash, peel, and chop potatoes into medium chunks. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes for 20 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, brown ground turkey and onions in a large skillet. When turkey is cooked and onions are translucent, add chicken broth and Stone Smoked Porter to the skillet.
Add spices to taste. Cumin may not be typical shepherd’s pie spice, but I dig it and it’s my damn recipe! Leave it out if you prefer. Cook for 5 more minutes until the liquid begins to reduce. Sprinkle flour into the mixture and stir it in.
Cook until the gravy thickens and is just barely covering the turkey mixture. Rinse the frozen veggies in a colander so they’re not so frozen anymore. Drain them well and add to turkey. Add a splash more of the porter, just to give it a little more cooking liquid so the mixture doesn’t dry out in the oven.
The potatoes should be done at this point. Drain them well in a colander. Return them to the cooking pot. Add milk, butter, salt, pepper (white pepper if you have it), and a small splash of porter. Mash the potatoes until very smooth (if you have a potato masher, awesome. Go to it. If you’re old school like me, use a fork and some elbow grease).
Pour the turkey mixture into a deep 8 or 9 inch square casserole dish. Top it with the mashed potatoes.
Spread the potatoes into an even layer. Sprinkle the top with paprika, and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes until the potatoes have browned on their peaks and the gravy is bubbling. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top during the last 5 minutes of cooking, just so it melts and bubbles.
As far as serving shepherd’s pie goes, it is inevitably a messy process. All that delicious gravy (delicious BEER gravy!) does not make for neat and tidy squares. I recommend throwing away any preconceived “pie” notions you have and treating it like a casserole. Grab a nice, big serving spoon and just slop it on the plates. It is so damn good, no one’s gonna care that it looks a mess.
By the way, this a super easy one to vegetize. Simply use beans or tempeh in place of the turkey, and veggie broth instead of chicken broth. The smokiness of the porter will still make for an irresistibly rich gravy. And for a vegan version, replace the milk with unsweetened soy or rice milk and the butter with vegan margarine. Leave off the cheese. If you must use vegan cheese, do so at your own risk and please don’t tell me about it. 😛