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Turkey shepherd's pie earns year-round appreciation

It’s the first Thanksgiving I’ve had mashed potatoes left over — at least more than a few bites to arm-wrestle for during the feast’s second act.

The much smaller size of our holiday gathering likely can be blamed for this happy accident. But coming years will see me purposely making more mashed potatoes than we can eat in a single sitting to produce, a few days later, my family’s new favorite: Thanksgiving leftovers shepherd’s pie.

It’s built on the classic northern European formula of leftover roast meat and vegetables topped with leftover mashed potatoes. In this case, the meat is obviously turkey. But the potato topping also could be substituted with mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash. My latest podcast details the method for a recipe originally devised by Ashland Food Co-op.

I went one step further with the leftovers theme and used Thanksgiving stuffing for the pie’s bottom crust. I simply sliced horizontally through the stuffing’s depth to get a thinner layer and lightly pressed it into the bottom of my baking dish.

The filling was based on a bechamel enhanced with onion and garlic. Leftover gravy can be repurposed for this step, as well.

Lacking leftover vegetables, I roasted some peeled and diced butternut squash and rutabaga, then scattered the cubes over the stuffing, followed by some hearty chunks of leftover turkey, frozen peas and the bechamel. Then I smoothed over the mashed potatoes that I’d mixed with a beaten egg and some chopped fresh parsley.

Easy, thrifty and downright delicious, shepherd’s pie is a dish I’m now compelled to make more than once a year. Here’s a recipe that starts the process from scratch, using ground turkey combined with black beans and Latin-inspired spices.

You could easily substitute your leftover turkey for the ground turkey in this. Just incorporate it after the onion and carrot have been sauteed in the same step as adding the bell pepper and beans.

While leftover mashed potatoes are perfect here, don’t let the prospect of making them fresh dissuade you from this recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service. I think the Latin flavors lend themselves even more to sweet potato or winter squash, if you’re so inclined. Stirring a beaten egg into the topping, as I did, causes it to firm up more in the oven and form a lovely crust.

Chipotle Turkey and Black Bean Shepherd's Pie

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

6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Salt, as needed

1/2 cup milk

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

1 cup finely shredded Parmesan or 3/4 cup grated queso anejo or Romano cheese

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

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

1 medium (8 ounce) white onion, peeled and diced

1/2 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons mild chile 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 and diced

1 (15-ounce) can black beans

Nonstick spray, for preparing pan

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Put the 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, for about 20 minutes. Drain well; return potatoes to pan.

Add the milk, butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mash over medium-low heat until potatoes are smooth. Stir in the cheese. Taste for salt. (Mashed potatoes may be prepared up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered. If necessary, microwave mashed potatoes so they are warm and spreadable for assembly.)

In large skillet over medium heat, cook the turkey, carrots and onion, stirring often, until turkey begins to brown, for about 12 minutes. Stir in remaining garlic, 1/4 cup water, the ketchup, chile powder, chipotle puree, thyme, oregano, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

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

Heat oven to 375 F on convection setting or 400 F conventional. Lightly coat insides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread turkey mixture evenly over bottom of dish. Gently spread warm mashed potatoes over turkey.

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

Makes 6 to 8 main-course servings.

Tribune News Service photo