I never knew the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie until recently; I found out, Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb and Cottage Pie uses beef.
To my knowledge, both are classic British fare, and decidedly wonderful comfort food. The kind of food that makes you want to pull up a chair to a rustic wooden table in front of a crackling fire in a cozy pub and stay a good long while as you thoroughly enjoy your meal.
It’s also the kind of meal you can easily whip up the day after Thanksgiving using all kinds of fabulous leftovers, and then enjoy at the end of the day after you’ve braved the craziness of Black Friday. (Because anyone heading out into the crowds on that day is certain to need comfort!)
Don’t be shy about customizing this dish to make it your own, because it should will work well with just about any meat and veggies you have on hand. Feel free to use lean ground turkey instead of ground beef; use any vegetable medley you have instead of onion, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic; or use mashed sweet potatoes (or even mashed white potatoes for a more traditional dish) instead of butternut squash puree.
If you want to use leftover turkey meat from Thanksgiving dinner, instead of the tomato-based sauce for the filling, I’d recommend making a quick béchamel. To do so, heat a couple tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in a couple tablespoons of flour and let it cook for a minute, and then whisk in about a cup of milk. Bring it up to a gentle simmer (stirring constantly), and your béchamel is ready to use. (It really is that easy!) Skip the tomato paste and stock in the recipe below.
Although a Cottage Pie couldn’t be easier to make, there is one trick to getting it to turn out perfectly: make sure you cook the filling long enough to let the liquid evaporate out. Otherwise your Cottage Pie will be soupy…and no one likes that (and don’t forget, the veggies will give off more liquid as the pie bakes in the oven). I think a drier filling might be more traditional than my recipe below, but a very thick stew-like filling is perfect for me, and I’m not saying this Cottage Pie is a traditional recipe; it sure is delicious though! To keep this dish grain-free, I use tomato paste to help thicken the filling instead of flour.
There is just a touch of cheese in the topping, which is what keeps this dish from being paleo. I think the little bit of cheese adds a huge punch of flavor, but if you’d like to keep this dish paleo, omit the cheese and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the butternut topping instead.
Whip this up with your Thanksgiving leftovers and hopefully, with any luck, it’ll be raining or snowing so you can enjoy the maximum comfort food effect.
And doesn’t this dish make you want to watch The Holiday? :)