In my opinion, potatoes are very overrated. They don't really taste that great unless they're fried or covered in cheese, which is cheating. A great vegetable should taste delicious with less than that.
Enter the rutabaga. You may have seen rutabagas hiding at the grocery store under the name "yellow turnips". Although they're yellowish on the inside, on the outside they fade from white to light purple. They're much lower in calories and carbohydrates than potatoes, and also taste way better. I would choose mashed rutabaga over mashed potatoes any day, and their lovely yellow color makes this shepherd's pie look even more inviting than the traditional version.
To be honest, I don't think I've ever eaten a shepherd's pie with potatoes, or any shepherd's pie other than the ones I've made over the past few weeks. The whole inspiration for this recipe was the rutabagas. My mom and cousin were coming to dinner, and Ben and I went to the farmer's market. We got there late, and there were no green vegetables left at all--only roots! We picked up a bunch of rutabagas and some grassfed ground beef, and shepherd's pie occurred to me as the perfect way to put the two together.
This dish is supremely comforting. The top layer is so creamy and fluffy, it's almost like rutabaga clouds, and the flavorful meat underneath is the perfect counterpoint. Shepherd's pie takes a little time to put together, but this recipe makes a bunch, and it tastes even better the next day.
Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Ingredients (inspired by Simply Recipes and Alton Brown):
For the rutabaga layer:
4 or 5 medium rutabagas, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for salting the water
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons ghee, olive oil, or butter
1/4 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
2 egg yolks
For the meat layer:
2 tablespoons ghee, coconut oil, or lard
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon coconut aminos
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic will also work)
1/3 cup water or stock
Preheat the oven to 400.
To make the rutabaga, place the chopped rutabaga in a large saucepan with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender.
Drain the rutabaga, and add all the remaining ingredients except the egg yolks. Process with an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender or food processor) until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Add the egg yolks, and process again.
While the rutabaga is cooking, prepare the meat. Place your fat of choice in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about ten minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Raise the heat slightly and add the ground beef. Cook, stirring frequently and breaking up any clumps, until no longer pink.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir. When the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until most of the excess liquid is gone.
Place the meat layer in a 9x13" baking pan. You can also make this in two 8x8" pans, or make half a recipe in one 8x8" pan. To make mini shepherd's pies, use 8 small, 8- to 10-ounce ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Top with the mashed rutabaga, spreading with a spatula to form a seal around the edges of the pan. Use a spoon or spatula to create a little texture on the surface--this helps the top get browned in spots.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. If desired, set the oven to broil and place in the broiler for a few minutes, until browned in spots, checking frequently (don't walk away!). Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Leftover shepherd's pie is delicious (perhaps even more so) reheated the next day or the day after that. Store it in the refrigerator, and reheat individual servings in the microwave, or reheat the entire pie in the oven at 400 until hot and bubbly.
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