Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm not Irish, and I don't have a repertoire of Irish recipes. (Although my dad says that because he's English we must have some Irish in us, go figure). But, since it is St. Patrick's Day I felt like I should make something that feels Irish. I've never been to Ireland, but I have spent some time in England and Scotland. Yes, I know they are different, and I'm not trying to lump all English, Scottish and Irish people into the same group. However, when I think about my visits to those places, I often think of pub food. I think pub food definitely has its place on St. Patrick's Day. Tonight I made shepherd's pie. This is a turkey shepherd's pie, which is a departure from the traditional lamb shepherd's pie (with my variations on Art Smith's recipe in Back to the Table). But, being pregnant and all I'm trying to keep things on the lighter side. If you want a lighter yet still very tasty version of this comfort food, I hope you will try this.

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 pounds ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, cut into half-inch cubes
2 celery ribs, cut into half-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with their juices
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold, lightly salted water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to large skillet or dutch oven and cook the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic over medium heat, with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the turkey, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, break up with back of wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, peas, chile powder, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce and bring to simmer. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Transfer turkey mixture into 13 x 9 baking dish and spread into an even layer. Mash the potatoes in the pot with buttermilk and butter, adding a few extra tablespoons of buttermilk if necessary to make the potatoes creamy. Add 2 tablespoons of chives and season to taste with salt and pepper. (The turkey mixture and mashed potatoes can be made up to this point several hours ahead and refrigerated separately. Place the mashed potatoes in a glass bowl and allow both the turkey and potatoes to come to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. May need to add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.)  Spread mashed potatoes over turkey and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until juices are bubbling and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining chives and serve hot.

Serves 8

In keeping with the Irish theme I wanted to make something for dessert. Scanning the pantry I decided to make oatmeal shortbread (my adaptation from Martha Stewart's website). This shortbread is very easy to prepare and has a light, crumbly, buttery texture. It's great on it's own, perhaps with a cup of tea. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm pretty sure you could take it to the next level by crumbling it over a scoop of vanilla ice cream with fresh blackberries. I may just have to go to the store to get some...

Oatmeal Shortbread

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place oats on baking sheet and bake until very lightly golden and fragrant, about 4 to 6 minutes. Set aside to cool completely. Place 1/2 cup cooled oats, flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and process until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8-10 pulses. Place the mixture into an un-greased 9 inch cake pan. Press firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining oats and press them gently into the dough to adhere. Bake until lightly browned and firm, about 30 minutes, rotating the plan halfway through baking. Remove from oven and immediately score into 12 wedges with a paring knife. Allow to cool completely in pan. Once cool, cut all the way through along scored lines and remove from pan. Will keep in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 12 shortbread cookies