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Mar 18, 2018
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Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

March 11th 03:03pm, 2013

Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was just as big of an affair in my house as Christmas. My dad’s side of the family would drive to St. Louis from all over the Midwest, and we’d gather at my great-aunts’ house, which they would have decorated in all shades of shamrock. Several long tables would be lined up in the basement (the only room big enough to hold us all), and adorning the tables was everything from corned beef and cabbage to my Aunt Gloria’s famous whiskey pies.

Since the aunts have passed, Paddy’s Day is celebrated on a much smaller scale, and, since I’m the only vegetarian in my extended family, it usually involves me bringing my own entree. Shepherd’s pie has become my go-to dish on this occasion, mostly because I can make it a little different every time. Last year, I stayed fairly traditional and just subbed finely chopped mushrooms for the ground beef, but this year I’m upping my game with lentils in the filling and a sweet potato-parsnip mash on top.

While you make this, turn on some pub rock music, and the luck of the Irish will surely season your dish.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
8 Servings

3 sweet potatoes (1 large and 2 medium)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 small parsnips
1 cup green lentils
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves (1 whole clove, plus 3 cloves, finely chopped)
3 Tbsp. butter
Milk as needed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
½ large onion, diced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
¼ cup dry white wine
10 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
1½ cups frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped sage
½ Tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary
½ tsp. ground coriander
1½ cups vegetable stock
½ Tbsp. cornstarch

• Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Place them in a large pot and cover with water. Season with salt, and cover with a lid. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.
• Meanwhile, peel and dice the parsnips. Place them in a small pot and cover with water. Season with salt, and cover with a lid. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook until the parsnips are fork tender.
• Meanwhile, place the lentils in a small pot and add 3 cups of water, the bay leaf and the whole garlic clove. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, tilt the lid slightly and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
• Once the sweet potatoes and parsnips have cooked, drain them and combine them in a large bowl. Add the butter, season with salt and pepper, and mash lightly with a masher. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mashing until you reach your desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Set aside.
• Drain the lentils. Remove the garlic clove and bay leaf, and set aside.
• Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
• In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots and onion. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and saute for 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
• Add the mushrooms and saute until they are browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste, then add the prepared lentils along with the peas, sage, rosemary and coriander. Stir until combined.
• Add the stock and cover with a lid. Let cook until the carrots and peas are tender.
• In a separate small pot or pan, dissolve the cornstarch with a splash of vegetable stock (or water) and add it to the filling mixture. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat.
• Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Add the filling to the dish, then spread the sweet potato mixture over the top of the filling.
• Place in the oven, and then place some foil or a rimmed baking pan under the dish to catch any liquid that boils over. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the potato mixture is browned and starting to crust.
• Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 7 minutes before serving.

By Beth Styles

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