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Cold Weather Comfort Food

Non-traditional shepherds pie with rosemary, thyme and brandy gravy.

With a large family it is imperative to get the absolute most out of the dinners I prepare. Leftovers are not only something I look forward to, they are essential – and not an accident.

I always cook a little extra so I can count on having leftovers the next night and give myself a little break in the process. Now, it may not be a coincidence that my family hates leftovers. They’re no fools, they love my cooking and have a taste for freshness – my own fault really, I spoiled them all.

I am always looking for new and interesting ways to get my family to eat leftovers. I have figured out that if they don’t recognize the food from one day to the next, they’ll think it’s new. It’s like a re-gift – I’m not above it and what they don’t know wont hurt them.

With this in mind, I was thinking about the two pounds of leftover white chicken breast I had in the fridge that I wanted to do-over. Now in my family, two pounds of any meat only feeds about half of us, as we currently need four pounds for meals (and my kids are still growing – this is likely to get worse before it gets better). I had to figure out a way to stretch out two pounds of chicken to feed all four children and two hungry adults.

Enter “Go-to Plan No. 1: Casserole.” Every mom knows this is the ideal solution to stretch out a meal. I check out the pantry and fridge and discover a big bag of carrots and also a bag of red bliss potatoes. I’ll admit for a minute there I was stymied, until I remembered something I read in Wikipedia.

In my wiki travels, (truth be told, I have the unusual habit of wiki-ing everything that passes through my brain), I had discovered there are numbers of variations of shepherds pie or cottage pie, depending on region, culture and trend. It’s the sort of dish where “anything” goes, which makes it the perfect dish to experiment with!

I created a non-traditional shepherds pie using the ingredients I had at my fingertips. It turned out absolutely delicious – a happy accident that the family enjoyed, and I hope you all will too!

Shepherds Pie with Rosemary, Thyme and Brandy Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken breast cooked, cut in chunks or shredded (turkey or beef will work just as well)
  • 1 small bag or package red baby bliss potatoes, sliced in half or quartered for larger ones
  • 6 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 package shredded cheese blend, (chedder, jack cheese or parmesan)
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beef broth
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt/pepper to taste 
  • 1 tbls brandy or cognac (optional)
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 3 tbls (approx.) olive oil

Directions:

On a  stovetop, use a large stock pot to saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, add carrots, potatoes and garlic, season with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until a little softened, about 10 minutes on medium heat, occasionally stirring to keep even heat. If it looks too dry, add a little oil. Push all veggies to the sides to create a “hole” in the center*, add the butter. As the butter is melting, add flour and stir it into the butter. Add broth, use a whisk or fork to combine. Turn up heat to bring a slight boil, once bubbly, turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cognac at this time so the alcohol burns off while simmering. When the liquid is reduced by half, stir in the the cooked chicken, then pour contents into a 9x12 casserole dish and cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly. Serves 6.

*Note: If you prefer to remove veggies at this point to make the gravy in the pot, this would be the time to do so. Simply transfer the veggies to a bowl and loosely cover with foil. After gravy is made, add veggies back to pot, give it a stir and continue with the directions from there.

I hope you enjoy this non-traditional shepherds pie recipe as much as we did, and as always, if you have a unique spin, tip or suggestion, please let us know.  

We always welcome your ideas on What’s for Dinner!

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