Comfort Food - Refreshed

November 3, 2011

WFM Columbus Circle's culinary demo specialist Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her new weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week: Kelly shepherds in the cold weather with her hearty take on shepherd’s pie.

sarah shatz
Photo by Sarah Shatz

- Kelly

From a tender young age, I was mercilessly exposed to standard school cafeteria lunch fare. Here are some examples! WARNING: the following food descriptions of said school lunch fare may be unappetizing. Bear with me. 

  1. Salisbury Steak: frumpy glutinous brown disk pouting next to defeated boiled green beans. 
  2. Chicken Patty: oily orange round on a bun that could be smooshed together to form a ball of dough the size of a pebble.  
  3. Pizza: rectangular mozzarella cheese product atop sweet dough with two depressed pepperoni eyes, staring up at me from my tray, begging, "Please, put me out of my misery."  

And then Shepherd’s pie day arrived. I had a sweet spot for Shepherd’s pie. It was basic, hearty goodness: potato, corn, meat. It was the layering aspect I dug the most -- the way the fork fell softly into the pillowy mash, hitting sweet corn nuggets, and finally stopping at the deep, dark, rich stew at the bottom. The fact that it had "pie" in its name was key (pies are delicious). Truly, Shepherd’s pie was the king of comfort food. And recess after lunch on a Shepherd’s pie day? Heaven.

The next Shepherd’s pie I ate was at O’Connor’s Restaurant in Worcester, Massachusetts. O’Connor’s had big wooden booths that would swallow me whole as I dove into a huge heaping plate of Shepherd’s pie. One order could feed a little kid like me three times over. Somewhere in the comfort food handbook there has to be a section for portion sizes with a "nearly impossible to be eaten in one sitting" rule.

Now my Comfort Food – Refreshed version of Shepherd’s Pie is definitely filling and warming. The rich stew layer is all about winter veggies -- carrots, parsnips, cabbage. Tender mushrooms and earthy lentils contribute to the pie’s meaty texture. (The secret ingredient in the filling? Pine nuts!) The mashed potato topping will get all crusty if you finish it off under the broiler (highly recommended). You won’t miss a thing in my version of Shepherd’s pie. Well, except for recess afterwards. I still miss those monkey bars.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Serves 8

Gravy Element

2 cups low sodium mushroom broth
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons all-purpose whole wheat flour

Potato Element

3 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, large diced
2/3 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

Mushroom Element

2 lb Cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried ground sage

Winter Vegetable Element

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and small diced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and small diced
1/2 napa cabbage, cored and chopped

Lentil and Pine Nut Element

1 cup French lentils (green), cooked
1/2 cup pine nuts

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Stop by for a taste!

Stop by WFM Columbus Circle on Saturday, November 5 between 10:00 am and 6:30 pm to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips. I'll share samples of my Vegan Shepherd's Pie around 1:00 pm.

Like this post? See Kelly's post from last week: Pumpkin, Two Ways.

Kelly Dupuis is a culinary demo specialist at WFM Columbus Circle who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

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