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Shepherd's pie is packed with earthy flavor

Shepherd's pie is packed with earthy flavor

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In the fall, I postpone turning on the heat in the house as long as possible. Instead, I turn on the stove burners to boil, simmer and stew. Likewise, the heat emanating from the oven means something good is baking, braising or roasting. Kitchen heat satisfies so much more than the closedin feeling of heated rooms.

Some of that satisfaction likely comes from the fact that I'm cooking comfort food meant to warm my friends and family — inside and out.

In our house, comfort cooking usually begins with mashed potatoes. Simple, boiled potatoes, crushed with milk, soft butter and seasonings takes the chill off a cold day. Gussy them up with fresh garlic and cheese and we are talking dinner. Slather those potatoes over a rich, meaty filling, and folks call it shepherd's pie. Never one to shy away from flavor, I likemine laced with smoky chiles and flecked with earthy carrots and black beans.

Easier to make than lasagna, shepherd's pie can be assembled a day or two in advance. Or, just make the meat filling and/or the potatoes in advance, then assemble and bake the day you plan to serve.

The recipe that follows easily serves six.

Take pleasure in allotting the time to make this nicely seasoned twist on shepherd's pie, a super-fresh salad dressing and nutty bar cookies. This is real cooking and real eating.

Chipotle Turkey and Black Bean Shepherd's Pie

Prep: 30 minutes Cook: 1 hour Makes: 6 to 8 main-course servings

Mashed potatoes:

8 medium Yukon gold potatoes, about 2 pounds total, peeled, cut into large chunks

6 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened

1 cup finely shredded Parmesan or ¾ cup grated queso anejo or Romano cheese

Turkey filling:

2 pounds ground turkey, 94% lean OR ground chicken or lean ground beef

2 medium carrots, about 1/2 pound total, trimmed, peeled, diced

1 medium (8 ounce) white onion, diced

1/2 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons mild chili powder

1 tablespoon pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce OR hot red pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, oregano, cumin

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced

1 can (15 ounces) black beans

Fresh cilantro leaves

1. For the mashed potatoes, put potatoes and half of the garlic into a large saucepan; cover with cold, salted water. Heat to a simmer; cook, partly covered, until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well; return potatoes to pan. Add milk, butter and ½ teaspoon salt; mash over medium-low heat until potatoes are smooth. Stir in cheese. Taste for salt. (Mashed potatoes can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered. If necessary, microwave the mashed potatoes so they are warm and spreadable for assembly.)

2. For turkey filling, cook turkey, carrots and onion in large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until turkey begins to brown, about 12 minutes. Stir in remaining garlic, ¼ cup water, ketchup, chili powder, chipotle puree, thyme, oregano, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in bell pepper and beans with their liquid. Simmer, stirring often, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste for salt. (Turkey filling can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered. If necessary, microwave so the filling is slightly warm for assembly.)

4. Heat oven to 375 F on convection setting or 400 F on conventional. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil. Spread turkey mixture evenly over bottom of the dish. Gently spread warm mashed potatoes over turkey.

5. Bake until heated through and top of potatoes start to turn golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Note: Use this dressing on hearty greens, such as crispy romaine mixed with baby spinach and torn leaves of ruby-red radicchio.

Roasted Garlic and Lime Vinaigrette

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 10 minutes Makes: about 2⁄3 cup

4 to 6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1⁄3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lime zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1⁄8 teaspoon dried thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet set over medium heat. Cook, turning often, until garlic is golden on all sides and feels soft when pressed, about 10 minutes. Cool, then peel.

2. Crush garlic with a press into a bowl. Whisk in remaining ingredients in order listed. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Use at room temperature. Shake well.

Honey-Roasted Peanut Blondies

Prep: 15 minutes Bake: 35 minutes Makes: 16 pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1⁄3 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup honey-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with foil. Spray with nonstick vegetable oil.

2. Beat butter with a mixer in a large bowl on high speed until light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in sugar and vanilla until light. Beat in egg until smooth. Beat in peanut butter and baking powder until well mixed.

3. On low speed, beat in flour and salt until incorporated. Stir inpeanuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula or dull knife to spread batter to edges of pan.

4. Bake in the center of the oven until edges pull away from pan and top feels firm, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack, 10 minutes. Lift out of pan using the foil to help. Rest on a wire rack until completely cool.

5. Transfer to a cutting board; carefully pull away foil. Cut blondies evenly into 4 pieces. Cut each piece into 4 squares. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

Note: You can substitute gluten-free baking flour (such as Bob's Red Mill) for the all-purpose flour, if desired. For an interesting sweet-savory treat, use smoked peanuts in place of the honey-roasted and add ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder to the batter. If you have a big sweet tooth, add 1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips to the batter along with the peanuts. Or add a thin powdered sugar glaze to the cooled blondies before cutting.

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