Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

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Yum, Yum, Yum!!!  I love Shepherd’s Pie, but had never tried it with sweet potato.  The other day at the market, the sweet potatoes were huge; I couldn’t resist.  I bought 3 giant sweet potatoes.  Then I thought…what in the world am I going to make with this????  Alas!  Shepherd’s Pie!!! I usually make Shepherd’s Pie with mashed potatoes and ground beef.  Occasionally, I’ll use ground turkey, which is equally as delicious.  But the savory ground turkey I make along with the sweet potato was a match made in heaven! I like to call it Turkey Picadillo.  Picadillo is a classic Cuban dish made with ground beef; it’s basically seasoned ground beef in sauce, that we usually have with rice and plantains.  This is just as good and very healthy.   You will love this, I’m sure!  Plus, it’s such a nice dish for Fall!  What’s also great is that if you have left over ground turkey, you can serve it the next day with brown rice and vegetables or a salad and you have a completely different meal!

Serves 6, cooking time varies depending on method.


Ingredients for the mashed sweet potato:

  • 3 huge or 6 regular sized sweet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup seasoned, regular bread crumbs
  • a dusting of cinnamon for the top
  • a pinch of nutmeg for the top

    Instructions for the mashed sweet potato:

  • Wash sweet potatoes.  Peel them and cut them into medium sized cubes.  You can add them to boiling water.  Set temperature to medium/high and cook until tender, around 25 minutes or so.   Or, you can also bake them.  For baking in a regular oven, wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes at 400º.  I used my steam oven.  To steam them in a steam oven, cut them in quarters. place them in a pan with the skin side down.  My steam oven (Miele) has the option for “Menu Cooking” which sets the temperature and cooking time automatically.  But if your steam oven needs to be set to a temperature I would suggest 350º and steam for about 20 minutes.  In any case, it’s a good idea to pierce with a sharp knife before removing from any cooking medium to see if they are tender.  Once you can pierce them with a knife easily, it’s time to remove them.
  • If boiling, drain them well; you do not want any extra liquid, place them in a bowl.  If baking, remove them carefully from the aluminum foil.  cut them in half, lengthwise and carefully scoop out the inside into a bowl.  If steaming, carefully scoop out the sweet potato from the peel and add it to a bowl.  My favorite method is baking, but it does take a bit longer.  The steam oven works great and the food holds it’s nutrient levels because it does cook faster.  Once you have the sweet potatoes in a bowl, add 2 tbsp (room temperature or melted), and add whipping cream as you mash, 2 tbsp at a time.  Once you have a good consistency you can stop adding whipping cream.  For the Shepherd’s pie, you do not want it to be too liquid because you’ll need layer it.  …Don’t want one layer running into another!
  • Chop nuts and mix bread crumbs in a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp melted butter, a hefty pinch of salt and some ground pepper and toss with a spoon to coat evenly.  Set aside.


Ingredients For the ground turkey:

  • About 1 1/2 – 2 pounds fresh ground turkey.  The breast meat will be more dry than the dark meat. I like to buy two packages; one dark meat and one breast meat.
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced or about 1/3 of a small can of tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • a good pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • peas (optional)
  • mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

    Instructions for the ground turkey:IMG_6697

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium/high heat.  Add in the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes, until tender. Add the chopped carrots and mushrooms (if using).  Once the mushrooms have browned, add the tomato and tomato paste and the herbs and spices.  Add the turkey.  Stir to combine, using a wooden spoon, break up the ground meat so it’s in small pieces while it browns.
  • Once it’s browned, if you feel there is not enough liquid, add a little chicken broth.  Lower the heat to low and cover.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper.   At this time, if you feel there is too much liquid, especially if you’re going to use this for Shepherd’s Pie, remove the lid and simmer uncovered for an additional 15 minutes until the liquid reduces; stir occasionally.  You may also add a splash of white wine and let that reduce as well for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate, but add it in after your meat is cooked.


To assemble the Shepherd’s Pie:

  • You may assemble this in a rectangular casserole dish.  Or, if you have small crocks for onion soup (that are oven proof)  you can use those.
  • I like to make mine three layers; potato on the bottom, meat in the middle and then potato on the top.  Place one layer of sweet potato at the bottom, spread evenly to cover the entire bottom.  Then for the next layer, add the cooked ground turkey, then top with more mashed sweet potato.  I like to make the bottom layer thinner, the turkey layer thicker and then fill the rest of the crock or casserole dish to the rim with the last of the potato. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon over each before topping with nut mixture.
  • Using a spoon, place the chopped nut and bread crumb mixture on top. mostly in the center, leaving a little rim of the orange sweet potato around the edge.  Bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven set to 350º.  Then, set your oven to broil and broil to brown the crispy topping for 3-5 minutes, watching it so it doesn’t burn!  Remove carefully.  Note: if you using crocks, you should place them in on a rimmed pan that can hold 6.


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