Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Whipped Cauliflower

As promised, I present to you a healthy take on an old classic. I think the staples of our childhood kitchens can fall by the wayside when we try to start eating healthier. Beef stroganoff, tuna noodle casserole, chicken divan, and meatloaf are practically taboo in modern, ‘healthy’ households these days. These were foods I was raised on. They elicit fond memories and unadulterated nostalgia. However, in today’s 2014 world, we all know we cannot add Campbell’s Cream of Anything to our nightly entrees without a little saturated fat guilt.

Which brings me to our featured cauliflower recipe. The creation was sparked by my mother a few weeks ago. If you read ‘Crushing on Cauliflower’ last week, you know whipped cauliflower was a mashed potato substitute in our house some 10 years ago.  She asked if I thought said cauliflower would work on top of shepherd’s pie in place of mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, there’s never been a food science question thrown at me I won’t attempt to tackle. This baby was born not 2 weeks after that 15 minute phone conversation.

I am not saying all good things must be destroyed in order to make them healthier. I enjoy the challenge of healthfully adjusting recipes in the kitchen – make it taste good, look good, and most importantly, feel good. That’s not a crime. I also find it thrilling to try new things for the first time while cooking for others. Shoot, my eggplant osso buco didn’t turn out? Oh, did you say it tastes like tire rubber? Thank you! Now then, where can I get my hands on a Dominos menu and who will be running out to purchase the beer to help drown my shame?

I decided to make this dish for some friends during New England’s 3,307th snow storm this year. Instead of lugging the perishables around town, I took a cab straight to my evening kitchen. En route to the destination, my cab driver asked what was in my grocery bags. I think it was ‘Hey, what are making you for dinner tonight little lady?’ After I bit my tongue in resentment for the somewhat sexist comment, I informed him I was making Shepherd’s Pie…with turkey…and whipped cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. This 5’10″, 200-something pound man rolled his eyes as if seeing the top of his cab would be a crime if he didn’t indulge the desire. His verbal response was, and I quote, ‘Oh God, their poor souls. They [my dinner guests/ginny pigs] are going to be so mad at you!’ I paid the fair, tipped appropriately, exited the cab and got to work.

Needless to say my cabi was W.R.O.N.G. This pie is good. I mean darn good. I made it for the male population and these boys were practically licking their plates clean after supper. I would never lead you down the wrong path. Try this beauty and let its traditional simplicity amaze you.

Side bar on this one – photos were taken using my iPhone because my Cannon battery decided to die with unapologetic urgency.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Whipped Cauliflower

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Serves 6-8
*See bottom of post regarding recipe notes

2 medium heads of cauliflower, chopped into small floweretts
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup shredded asparagus
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup canned corn, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper*
¼ cup ketchup
1 pound ground turkey breast
4 cups chicken broth, divided
1 Tablespoon flour
¾ cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit

In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook to soften for about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, asparagus and cook for another 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook until fragrant (~2 minutes). Add ground turkey and cook until lightly browned, breaking up the turkey during cooking. Fold in peas and corn. Add herbs, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper; heat through. Stir ketchup and cook until lightly caramelized, about 1-2 minutes. In a small separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup of chicken broth and flour, pour into skillet and cook for another 2 minutes until juices have thickened. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 pan.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Meanwhile, in large saucepan heat remaining 3 cups of chicken broth and cauliflower over medium-high/high heat. Broth should nearly cover the cauliflower, if it doesn’t, add water until it does. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until cauliflower is soft*. Drain excess fluid, reserve about 1 cup of fluid in case needed to thin whipped cauliflower. Place cooked cauliflower in a food processor and puree. Drizzle in ~1 Tablespoon of olive oil, pulse to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. If too thick, add reserved broth here until desired consistency is achieved. This step will take about 20-25 minutes, feel free to make whipped cauliflower prior to starting the turkey layer.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Spread whipped cauliflower over turkey mixture in baking dish. Top with shredded cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted and turkey mixture is bubbling around the edges. You may need to broil for ~5 minutes if you want cheese to brown depending on your oven.

Cut pie into pieces, plate, serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

*Crushed Red Pepper: add as much or as little as you like depending on your desired level of heat.

*Whipped Cauliflower: When I write ‘soft’, I mean soft. At this point you can practically mash it with a fork. Paragraph two under the directions is how I make whipped cauliflower as a side dish. However, in addition to the cauliflower, I add a few peeled cloves of garlic during the boiling process and puree them with the cauliflower to add extra flavor.


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