Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

Wild Mushroom Sheperd's Pie | A Sweet SpoonfulLast weekend I had the chance to get away to Portland by myself — actually, Sam came on Friday night and we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday, but I drove him to the train station late Saturday morning and returned to my Airbnb to … take a very long nap. Friends who I talk to ask what I did in Portland, excitedly hoping for the best restaurant recommendation or shopping find. And I did a little of that for sure, but I spent half the time right on that Airbnb couch reading an entire book (!!), making myself almond milk hot chocolates, and brainstorming new creative projects.

When I sold Marge, Sam and I talked about me getting away somewhere to celebrate and mark the occasion. I’d had LA in mind, but the timing collided with the holidays and family visits and birthday parties and what not, so it just never happened. Portland seemed more immediately doable, and I’ve been wanting to check out Tusk for a long time (so good if you have the chance to go!). I’d wanted to check out a few places for a long time, and did – I had some fancy avocado toast and great coffee at Proud Mary, some more great coffee and Turkish eggs at Upper Left Roasters, ramen at Marukin, a drinking chocolate at Cacao before hitting the road – but the Portland I most needed, it seems, was in the downtime.

Wild Mushroom Sheperd's Pie | A Sweet Spoonful

In Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost (a favorite of Sam’s), she quotes Meno asking, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

When I drove Sam to the train station on Saturday, he told me to try and let myself get bored at some point over the weekend: that’s when the real relaxation starts to kick in. When you have a toddler at home, it’s a rare opportunity to get away for three days solo just for the heck of it, and Sam was really hoping I’d get to clear my head, maybe think of a second book or future project. Of course, the stakes feel a bit high when you sit down at the table, telling yourself you only have two days to figure out your next book proposal, wondering why inspiration isn’t flowing as it should (Which is why I mitigated some of that anxiety with a good dose of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

Wild Mushroom Sheperd's Pie | A Sweet Spoonful

But I did follow Sam’s overall advice and let myself get bored. I read more than I have in months (Little Fires Everywhere is great), challenged myself to eat out alone (not my strength for some reason), and had a chance to journal a bit and think through some ideas. No, I don’t have a book proposal. I don’t even have the most solid of book proposal ideas, really, or even the certainty that a book is the best move right now. But I did return feeling reenergized and eager to get into the kitchen and cook — something I haven’t really felt since the holidays. And I have a hunch that feeling reenergized in little pockets of life — like the daily act of cooking — will eventually lead to feeling new inspiration in other areas, too.

Most of you know the blog Smitten Kitchen, and turn to Deb’s recipes for great, approachable comfort food and meals you want to make right this second. You could say the same for her newest book Smitten Kitchen Every Day : I’ve bookmarked it heavily and appreciate her low-stress approach to cooking even more now that we have a kiddo in the mix. If you struggle with weeknight dinners like we do, this book is a must-grab.

This wild mushroom shepherd’s pie is a revamp of a classic my mom used to make for us growing up (hers was a ketchup-laced ground beef, frozen corn and mashed potato affair). In Deb’s vegetarian iteration, the fresh mushrooms are cooked down in a thick, savory sauce thanks to rehydrated porcini mushrooms, dried sherry, tomato paste and thyme (my contribution) and the whole thing is cloaked in a buttery layer of mashed potatoes and parsnips (also my contribution as we had a lonely one in the fridge). The perfect food for the first day of February, no?

Wild Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

Wild Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Prep time: 35 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 5 mins

This hearty recipe feeds 6 very hungry adults or 8 moderately hungry adults; round it out nicely with a simple green salad. While Deb uses all russet potatoes for the topping,  I used half parsnips and half potatoes: parsnips have an earthy, slightly sweet flavor that works really well here. As for mushrooms,  I used a mix of portobello, cremini and oyster, but using most (or all) cremini will work just fine.

Recipe ever so slightly adapted from: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Ingredients

Filling:

1/2 cup (15g) dried mushrooms like porcini (or a mix)
1 cup (235ml) boiling water
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh mushrooms (a mix is great: cremini, shitake, oyster) cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves, plus more to top
2 tablespoons(30ml) dry sherry
1 tablespoon (15g) tomato paste
1/2 cup (117ml) - 1 cup (235ml) vegetable stock ** (see note at bottom of recipe)

Potato "Lid":

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into larger 1-inch chunks
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (55g) crème fraîche or sour cream
1/2 cup (118ml) milk or buttermilk, plus more if necessary to get desired texture
chopped parsley, to top (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the mushrooms: In a small bowl, combine the dried mushrooms and boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes (while you continue with the other steps), then drain, reserving the soaking water, and chop the rehydrated mushrooms into small bits. If the soaking water has any sand or grit at the bottom, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer.

Prepare the lid: Place the potatoes and parsnips in a medium pot, and cover them with a couple inches of salted water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer over medium heat for 12-15 minutes, until both are easily pierced in the center with a knife. Drain, scoop into a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add the butter, salt and pepper and stir. Add the crème fraîche and milk and stir to combine. If the potato mixture is thicker than you’d like and would be difficult to spread, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Cook the vegetables: In a large pan (4-quart, or an 11-inch deep skillet or braiser) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté until the vegetables begin to brown ever so slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the fresh mushrooms, a pinch of salt, fresh thyme, and increase the heat to high, cooking the mushrooms until they brown and soften, releasing their juices, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the sherry and scrape up any stuck bits. Add the tomato paste, and stir to combine. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and their liquid, plus the stock (start with 1/2 cup stock and add more if mixture seems to dry). Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are coated in a thick sauce. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Bake the pie: In an oven-safe 2-3 quart baking dish, scoop the mushrooms into an even layer. Top with potato mixture, using the back of your spoon to spread it evenly over the top, all the way to the edges to form a seal. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Garnish with additional thyme and parsley, if desired. 

Do ahead: The shepherd’s pot pie keeps for 5 days in the fridge and longer in the freezer. Rewarm in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

**Note: Deb calls for 1 cup of stock but I found that my mixture really only needed 1/2 cup as the mushrooms released quite a bit of liquid. I’d start conservatively with 1/2 cup and if the mixture needs more, add a little at a time: you want the filling to be saucy but not soupy/overly wet.

Comments

  1. Kaitlin

    Love this, Megan!! I feel like “self-care” is becoming such a catch phrase that sometimes I get overwhelmed just thinking about how to make it work but I think you did it perfectly. Little Fires Everywhere was one of my favorite books this past year. I too, have found it hard to find time to read but am trying to insert a few minutes into my routine every day and it’s been such a nice source of peace and escape. I recommend Sing Unburied Sing! Also pumped to try this shepherd’s pie. Love Deb’s new cookbook-that winter farro slaw is one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. Glad you got a respite to recharge! I am super excited to hear about whatever you do next!

  2. Rosa

    I would love to see another book from you... just made your Morning Glory oats for myself and 3-year-old this morning- we call it Peter Rabbit Oatmeal :-) Well done taking the time to be bored!

  3. Andrea Christensen

    I think I might need to make this next week! Also seems like a good one to stick in the freezer for when our little lady arrives.

    P.S. I keep forgetting to send you this quote. A dear friend sent it to me after I quit my coporate job and was trying to figure out what to do with myself.

    "Whatever it is, strop trying to figure it out now. Let it remain unresolved a little while. Stop trying to fast-forward to the 'answer' scene in the movie of your life; trust the present scene of 'no answer yet. Allow the question itself space to breathe and be fertilized. Relax into the mysterious ground of NOW." - Jeff Foster

    HUGS!

  4. Megan

    I made this Shepherd's Pie today and followed your suggestions. The result was really delicious and satisfying! I allowed most of the mushroom juices to cook off, but still found that 1/2 cup of stock was plenty of liquid. I went all out and mixed the potatoes and parsnips with buttermilk and sour cream (and butter!). I will definitely make this again. And, echoing another commenter, I would LOVE another cookbook from you.

    1. megang

      Hi, Megan! So glad you made this today and enjoyed it! I had the same experience with the liquid, so glad you trusted your instincts on that one. And THANK YOU! I'd like to write another one, too! Now just have to decide on a good topic :) Have a great rest of your weekend.

  5. Lynne

    Hi Megan,
    What a great recipe! I made it last Sunday and it happily sat in the fridge until last night when I popped it in the oven. We had an evening event to attend and it was wonderful to have such a nice supper where the only things I had to do were turn on the oven and toss a salad.
    Thank you for posting this - it's a keeper!

    Lynne

    1. megang

      So glad to hear it, Lynne! Yes, we found that it kept really great in the fridge, too!

  6. Diana Lopes

    I'll always take any recipe that has mushrooms in it, I love discovering all the different flavors. Thanks for sharing!

    1. megang

      Yay! Hope you enjoy it, Diana.

  7. Karen

    I must begin by saying that 1) we are big fans of Smitten Kitchen and have made many successful recipes (do try the Coconut Meltaways and the Crispy Tofu & Broccoli in the new book) and 2) we are enthusiastic plant eaters, but neither my husband nor I was keen on this. It's not terrible, just (IOHO) not very interesting. Oh well - all is not lost as I got 2 great book recommendations from Kaitlin!

    1. megang

      Shoot, Karen. I'm so sorry to hear you didn't love the recipe. It's a good one for this time of year, too - hearty and flavorful. I haven't tried the Coconut Meltaways, but am going to go look them up right now :) Thank you for the recommendation. Enjoy your holiday, and thank you for the feedback!

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