A Lighter Shepherd's Pie

With St. Paddy's Day just around the corner, last week I was looking for the perfect recipe to pay homage to my small bit of Irish heritage. I have a strong aversion to traditional Irish dishes like corned beef, soda bread and pretty much anything with cabbage, so I needed something different. And I was cooking for one, so I was looking for a recipe with that comfort food appeal that wouldn't cause me to gain 10 pounds from after eating leftovers a couple nights.

Shepherd's pie seemed to fit the bill nicely. With a few simple changes, it can be made more figure-friendly. For a lighter alternative that still feels like comfort food, I combined a super-healthy recipe found here with a full-on version found here, and did a bit of improvising. Now I could have my pie and drink an extra Guinness too.

For the filling, I used carrots, peas, onions, Italian seasoning and ground turkey breast. You could certainly keep the traditional ground lamb as it is lean, but I had turkey on hand so that's what I went with. I followed the beginning instructions for the healthy recipe, cooking the meat and veggies (swapping the mushrooms for peas) up in a bit of olive oil. I didn't have fresh herbs on hand so improvised with a dried Italian seasoning mix and minced garlic. I added in the flour and cooked for a few more minutes before deglazing with my secret ingredient, a bottle of stout. Follow this up with a tablespoon of tomato paste and you will have just created the most delicious, savory, yet slightly sweet, deeply flavored shepherd's pie sauce ever.

For the all-important mashed potato topping, I made my potatoes simply, with russet potatoes, skim milk, a few tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper. This is not a place to load up on the fat; I promise you won't miss the cream or extra butter, as there is enough flavor in the mixture beneath. I topped the potatoes with a sprinkling of low-fat cheddar (don't use fat-free, it won't melt properly).

I cooked the dish in individual ramekins so each serving would have perfectly crusty edges -- also, because they're cute -- and baked at 350 degrees for about a half hour (remove when the potatoes and cheese form a slightly golden, bubbly crust of Irish awesomeness).

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Kristen Majewski
Contact: Kristen Majewski