"Shepherd's Pie" is a traditional Irish dish of lamb stew topped with mashed potatoes. Irish immigrates to the United States have certainly made an impression on our culture and cuisine. For this St. Patrick's Day, I have "immigrated" the Irish shepherd into the South by adding low-carb turnips with their nutrient rich greens to the mashed potatoes, while taking advantage of Alabama's large poultry industry by replacing the traditional lamb with chicken. Of course, what Irish holiday would be complete without a toast of beer—and I have used some to add body and depth of flavor to this dish. "Erin go Bragh—y'all!"
For the topping:
5 medium turnips with greens attached (about 2 pounds with the greens attached). [If turnips with greens are not available, buy stemmed turnips and use 15 stems of fresh bundled turnip greens.]
4 to 5 large russet potatoes (2 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch (6 to 8) scallions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup low-sodium, canned chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, slice lengthwise in half, cut into 3/4-inch-thick half rounds
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken (ground turkey may be substituted)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (12-ounce) bottle imported Irish ale (your favorite amber beer may substituted)
1/4 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
To prepare the topping:
Cut the greens off of the turnips. Peel the turnips and cut into quarters. Remove the stems from the greens, discarding the stems and washing the greens in several changes of water. Dry the greens with paper towels or in a salad spinner. Chop the greens into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Place the turnips and potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Set over medium-high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, lower the heat to maintain a low boil and cook until the potatoes and turnips are fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a medium skillet over medium heat and when hot, add the olive oil, scallions, and garlic, sautéing until the scallion whites are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the greens, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using tongs, toss the greens so they begin to wilt, 30 to 40 seconds. Add the chicken stock and sauté until the liquid is almost evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the greens in the pan.
Next, place the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, heating until the butter melts and the milk begins to scald. Remove from heat.
When the potatoes and turnips are fork tender, drain off the water and return the potatoes/turnips to the pot, with the heat turned off. Mash the mixture. Restore the heat to low, letting any extra moisture in the mixture cook off until it begins to stick to the pot. [Note: turnips will absorb water while boiling, so you want to make sure they are dried out after being cooked or your mashed mixture will be too wet!] To the mash, add the warm milk mixture, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, stirring until smooth. Stir in the sautéed greens until combined. Set aside and prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling and assemble:
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the olive oil, onions and carrots, sautéing until they begin to color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for a quick 30 seconds. Add the chicken, salt and pepper, cooking until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture, stirring to coat and continue cooking for a minute. Add the tomato paste, beer, green beans, Worcestershire, thyme and rosemary, stirring to combine, making sure the tomato paste is mixed in well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Taste mixture and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Spread the meat mixture into the buttered casserole baking dish. Top with the mashed mixture, smoothing with a spoon, making sure the potato/turnips completely cover the meat mixture, sealing it in to help keep the mixture from bubbling over. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and place the dish on the lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until the potatoes are browned. Place on a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.