I consider myself pretty lucky that my parents always invited us into the kitchen with them when they were making meals. My dad is a recipe kinda guy and was always cruising through cookbooks for ideas to try while my mother loathes recipes and usually just cooked according to taste, memory or curiosity. From the two of them I learned a lot about cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, something I thought every parent imparted on their kids. However, over the years I have realized that is not the case. In fact, most of my friends have a very limited understanding of how to cook or improvise when making a meal. I am always happy to share my kitchen know-how with friends who ask.
Last week we went to visit our good friends Bret & Carolyn in Jersey and since they’ve been very busy with their little girl Allie – one of my favorite people in all the world – I figured I’d bring the food. Carolyn is one of those dear friends who I’ve had the pleasure of helping get her groove in the kitchen so I made dinner a “learning moment,” as my father would say. I chose to make shepherd’s pie because the filling can be flexible depending on what you have around and it can be made of frozen vegetables so Carolyn wouldn’t need to worry about always doing a lot of prep work. This is a great recipe to make in large batches then reheat for a few days.
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 6-8 small red new potatoes
- 1/2 C plain greek yogurt
- 2 Tbs butter, softened
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 5 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 1/2 C carrots, diced
- 2 C baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 C peas
- 1 Tbs fresh thyme
- 3/4 C chicken stock
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 450˚
- Combine the softened sweet potatoes and boiled new potatoes in the bowl of a mixer and whip until mixed well then add the yogurt and butter and whip a bit more to incorporate. Set aside.
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat brown the chicken and saute until just cooked through then using a slotted spoon transfer the meat into a medium high sided casserole dish.
- In the same pan with the fat rendered from the chicken (feel free to add olive oil if needed) saute the garlic and onion until transparent (5-7 minutes) then add the celery and carrot and cook until the carrots have softened (10-15 minutes) being sure to stir occasionally.
- Add the mushrooms, peas and thyme and allow the vegetable mixture to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Then transfer to the casserole dish and mix with the ground lamb.
- Pour the chicken broth into the saute pan and let it simmer for a minute or two while stirring to release all the caramelized juices from the pan. Then pour the liquid over the mixture in the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Top the lamb and vegetable mixture with an even layer of the mashed sweet potatoes and sprinkle the smoked paprika over the top. Put in the oven and let it bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is slightly brown.