Here are the things I love about this dish:
- It’s pretty sneaky and sly, and you’ll find out why in a minute
- It’s extremely flavorful and very addictive. My meat-and-potatoes-loving husband can’t resist going back for seconds and thirds of this one
- Just in time for Valentine’s Day, it’s also a super romantic recipe
Okay, so maybe this hearty and rustic dish is the opposite of a romantic Valentine’s dish.
I felt like I had to say something about the impending holiday. Please note the roses and wine in my photo above in place of the romantic recipe.
So here are the major players this week ( ground beef not pictured since there really wasn’t room left on the cutting board).
Begin by starting on the potato crust. Boil a large stock pot of water. While that’s heating up, chop up the potatoes. Cut each potato in half and cut each half into four about equally-sized pieces. I peeled the potatoes because I was thinking about how the final photos would look, but you can skip this step and leave the skins on if you’d like.
Here’s the sly, stealthy part. We’re going to add a lot of cauliflower to the dish, but in this particular recipe, you can’t actually tell. When the crust is completed, it tastes just like delicious, flavorful mashed potatoes.
So, here’s the easiest way to cut cauliflower that I’ve found: Hold the cauliflower on its side and cut down toward the cutting board, removing as much of the outer leaves as you can.
Next, place the cauliflower right-side up and cut it in half and then into fourths.
Now you can easily cut off the rest of the thick inner stalk, slicing diagonally into each quarter as shown above.
After you’ve chopped off all of the leaves and inner stalk, just cut any large pieces so they’re about equally-sized.
Place the potatoes and cauliflower into a steamer basket over the boiling pot of water you started. Allow everything to cook until the vegetables are fork tender.
While the vegetables are steaming away, shred some sharp cheddar.
Why sharp cheddar? Using a cheese with a strong flavor such as sharp or extra sharp cheddar means you can use less and still get a ton of cheesy flavor in every bite. More flavor for less fat and calories, in other words.
Next, chop up some chives. I love chives – they’ve got healthy nutrients like vitamins A and C, they have no fat and calories, and they add such a delicious layer of flavor to the potatoes.
The easiest way to prepare them is to cut quarter-inch pieces using kitchen shears. If you don’t have shears, your knife will also work.
When your vegetables are fork-tender, put them into a large mixing bowl and add about 3/4 of the grated cheddar and 3/4 of the chopped chives. Be sure to season well with salt and pepper.
Use a potato masher to mash everything up and then just stir to make sure everything is well combined.
Now the tough part: cover with aluminum foil and set aside. These potatoes look, smell and taste fantastic, so the ‘setting aside’ without trying 3, then 5, then 8 ‘taste tests’ is very difficult. Just leave some for the shepherd’s pie, okay?
Now on to the meat mixture. Begin by browning a pound of 95 percent lean ground beef in a large saute pan.
There are a couple of substitutions that will work equally well here:
- Lamb – substitute half lean beef and half lamb, or simply use all lamb
- Vegetarian – swap out the ground beef for black beans and chopped mushrooms
While the meat is browning, mince up some garlic and dice one onion.
And add them to the saute pan to allow them to cook and soften. Season with salt and pepper.
Next chop up some carrots and parsnips. I suggest using three of each in the complete recipe (below), but feel free to use more (as I did) if you’d like. The more you use, the more healthy fiber and vitamins you get in each serving.
Have you tried cooking with parsnips this winter? They look like white carrots and they have a distinct sweet flavor. In terms of nutrition, they’re low-calorie with lots of nutrients including vitamin C, folate, potassium, as well as fiber.
They’re delicious in this recipe.