Remembering a shepherd
Imagine entering a hostile land filled with savage people. You know but a few words of the local tongue, and the natives want you dead or gone, or both.
Now imagine you aren’t just passing through, but you are here to stay, and you have a mission. Your mission is to convince them that their pagan beliefs are false and that it would be in their best interest to adopt your Catholic faith, which, before your arrival, they had never heard of.
And now imagine that this goal makes them want to kill you even more.
That was what St. Patrick faced centuries ago when, as an evangelist and shepherd of the people, he traveled to the remote fringe of civilization to win Ireland for Christ. It is remarkable what the Church fathers and early Christian evangelists faced. When I think about it, I find that it both motivates and shames me, given how much they risked and suffered compared to what I do all day.
Well, that’s why he’s Saint Patrick and I am just Michelle. I am not about to go traipsing off to the nearest violent, pagan country I can find and set up shop. But there is one thing I can do, and you can as well. With the feast of St. Patrick coming up, we could spend some of the day honoring him, asking him to pray for us and recalling what he did to promote our faith. I have a recipe that fits the theme and honors this man who, in addition to being a shepherd in his youth, blossomed as a true shepherd of the people in his adulthood.
I first tasted this one cold Saturday evening. After sifting through the fridge earlier, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I came across a package of ground turkey that was about to expire. Feeling uninterested in cooking that afternoon with all that had to be done, I turned to my husband for ideas. “Honey, what should I do with this?” I asked. He replied, “I could make a shepherd’s pie with that.” My eyes grew wide and my ears suddenly perked up. Had he just said that he would do the cooking? With resounding approval, I complimented his brilliant idea!
When I returned home from running errands in the bitter cold, I was greeted with a fire in the fireplace and the wonderful aroma of David’s cooking. The very first bite of his shepherd’s pie was far beyond what I had expected. That incredible recipe is shared below.
Served with a Guinness, I think this recipe rivals anything we might find in Ireland itself, where this dish has its roots. Accompanied by a brief reading about St. Patrick and a prayer for his intervention in our lives, I think my family will enjoy and benefit from a feast day that celebrates a brave and holy man.
• 2-3 medium potatoes (peeled, boiled and cubed)
• 1 medium onion chopped
• 2 cups chopped white mushrooms
• 1 bag frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, corn and green beans)
• 3-4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
• 1 pound of ground turkey or beef
• 1 large (28oz.) can of diced tomatoes (including ½ of the liquid)
• 1 small (14.5oz.) can of beef broth
• 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
• ½ teaspoon soy sauce
• 2-3 bay leaves
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
• 5-6 cups mashed potatoes (instant will work)
• salt and pepper to taste
Prepare both the boiled and mashed potatoes and set aside. In a large saute pan, cook onions in butter or olive oil for 5-6 minutes or until slightly transparent. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and half of the juice from the can. Add bag of frozen vegetables, and continue to cook on low to medium heat until much of the liquid has reduced.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, brown the ground turkey or beef and drain the liquid/fat. Add the browned meat to the tomato/vegetable mixture. Add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, bay leaves, dried thyme and dried rosemary. Reduce heat and continue to simmer until mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the mixture into one 9” x 13” non-stick pan (or two smaller casserole dishes). Remove the bay leaves and gently fold-in cubed potatoes. Spread a 1½- to 2-inch layer of mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, and place a few thin pats of butter on top. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown in areas on top.