Chosen Bites: A trip down memory lane

There is nothing more comforting than a fresh shepherd's pie. Try this modern take on a childhood classic.

Shepherd's pie (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shepherd's pie
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A lot of good childhood memories come from homey dishes like comforting and heartwarming meat and potato casserole.
I have modernized the recipe by replacing the mashed potatoes with garlicky parsnip and cauliflower puree. The vegetables make a creamy and delicious puree with the added benefit of having a decadent creamy mash while eating a good amount of vegetables too.
My favorite version of the classic includes a filling made with ground lamb, but feel free to substitute with ground beef or turkey. I also like to prepare individual ramekins of this laid-back supper; that way, no one has to fight for the crusty end bits as everyone will have their own.
Shepherd’s Pie
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil3 cloves garlic, minced450 grams cauliflower, cut into florets, stem trimmed and diced450 grams parsnips, peeled and diced1 cup chicken stock (homemade or purchased)Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1. Place a medium sauté pan, lightly coated with the olive oil, over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic has softened slightly (about two minutes).
2. Add the cauliflower, parsnips and chicken stock. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 20-30 minutes).
3. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are a thick puree. Season with salt and pepper.
For the filling2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil1 cup chopped onion2 carrots, peeled and diced small2 cloves garlic, minced700 grams ground beef, lamb or turkey2 tablespoons all-purpose flour2 teaspoons tomato paste1 cup chicken broth1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peasKosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1. Heat a large sauté, lightly coated with the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrots and sauté just until they begin to take on color, approximately three to four minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, beef or turkey salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
3. Add the peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish or divide into individual ramekins. Top with the cauliflower and parsnip puree. Be sure to press the vegetable puree around the edges to keep the meat juices from bubbling over the top. Drizzle the top with olive oil and plenty of cracked pepper.
4. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the vegetable puree begins to brown. Remove from the oven and let stand to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.