Inspiration comes from funny places. Of all places, it recently came in the form of a cheddar rye muffin from Jennifer Perillo. If you don’t know Jennifer, she is an innovative recipe developer from Brooklyn and simply a wonderful person. In her post, she talks about the process of how she develops her own recipes and how with a simple twist they can morph into something totally different.
While I love flipping open and cooking from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks, I’ve lately felt the need to push the cookbook aside and to borrow a phrase “Just do it.” With Jennifer’s encouragement, I found the inner recipe developer that resides in me. On this particular day, I was in the mood for something comforting and filling so my mind wandered to Shepherd’s Pie and vegetarian at that. So with that, I got to work and this is what I came up with.
I honestly have no idea as to why I chose a rutabaga. I like it, but I’ve never cooked with it. I just knew its consistency would allow it to hold up well to being boiled, sauteed and baked. As for cutting it open, it’s not quite rock-hard, but it was a challenge. There was a moment where I felt I had lost the fight in getting it open, but I prevailed! As for the use of the sweet potato as the topping, well, me and sweet potatoes have a thing. I like it, it likes me and we get along famously.
With regards to everything else, corn is a staple in Shepherd’s Pie or at least it is for me, so that was a no-brainer. I attempted to use other ingredients and seasonings that would compliment one another. I got heat from the chili powder, smokiness from the chipotle peppers and the pot-pourri of flavors from Old Bay Seasoning. If you don’t know about Old Bay, you should definitely keep your eyes out for its yellow can because as their motto goes “1) it’s great on seafood and 2) it’s great on everything else.”
In all, I was very pleased with the Shepherd’s Pie. The creaminess of the sweet potato mash with the light topping from the Panko was silky yet crunchy. It contrasted nicely with the slightly firmer texture of the rutabaga and corn with the seasonings playing their role in the background. Nothing was overpowering, but you certainly knew there was smoke and heat.
Inspired Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
- 1/2 of a large rutabaga, diced into 1/2″ cubes
- 3 large sweet potatoes, roughly chopped into 2″ chunks so they boil at a similar rate
- 3 chipotle peppers, finely chopped
- 12oz can of corn, kernels
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 5 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons of butter
- 4 tablespoons of Panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Dice rutabaga into 1/2-inch cubes. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook rutabaga for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Try not to allow them to get mushy. Drain and put aside.
- Cut sweet potatoes into 2-inch chunks. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are tender and ready to be mashed. Drain potatoes and mash with cream, butter, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Preheat over to 375°F.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add rutabaga, chipotle peppers, corn, 1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon of chili power and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir occasionally and let the flavours blend for about 5 minutes.
- Spread the rutabaga mixture in a slightly greased 10-inch rectangular baking dish. Spread the sweet potato mixture over top. Sprinkle with Panko breads crumbs.
- Bake in 375°F oven for about 45 minutes or until the top begins to brown.
Thanks to Jennifer for the inspiration, cheddar rye muffins tasty and inspirational, who knew?