An earthy twist on a comfort food classic

Jeanmarie Brownson
Chicago Tribune
This twist on a shepherd’s pie features chiles and black beans for an earthy flavor this Halloween.

In the fall, I postpone turning on the heat in the house as long as possible. Instead, I turn on the stove burners to boil, simmer and stew. Likewise, the heat emanating from the oven means something good is baking, braising or roasting. Kitchen heat satisfies so much more than the closed-in feeling of heated rooms.

Some of that satisfaction likely comes from the fact that I’m cooking comfort food meant to warm my friends and family — inside and out.

In our house, comfort cooking usually begins with mashed potatoes. Simple, boiled potatoes, crushed with milk, soft butter and seasonings takes the chill off a cold day. Gussy them up with fresh garlic and cheese and we are talking dinner. Slather those potatoes over a rich, meaty filling, and folks call it shepherd’s pie. Never one to shy away from flavor, I like mine laced with smoky chiles and flecked with earthy carrots and black beans.

Easier to make than lasagna, shepherd’s pie can be assembled a day or two in advance. Or, just make the meat filling and/or the potatoes in advance, then assemble and bake the day you plan to serve.

Chipotle Turkey and Black Bean Shepherd’s Pie

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Makes: 6 to 8 main-course servings

Mashed potatoes

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

6 cloves garlic, crushed


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

Turkey filling

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

2 medium carrots, about

1/2 pound total, trimmed, peeled, diced

1 medium (8 ounce) white onion, diced

1/2 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons mild chili


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, seeded, diced

1 can (15 ounces) black beans

Fresh cilantro leaves

For the mashed potatoes, put 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, about 20 minutes. Drain well; return potatoes to pan. Add milk, butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mash over medium-low heat until potatoes are smooth. Stir in cheese. Taste for salt. (Mashed potatoes can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered. If necessary, microwave the mashed potatoes so they are warm and spreadable for assembly.)

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

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

Heat oven to 375 degrees on convection setting or 400 degrees on conventional. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil. Spread turkey mixture evenly over bottom of the dish. Gently spread warm mashed potatoes over turkey.

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

Nutrition information per serving (for 8 servings): 449 calories, 18 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 46 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 35 g protein, 634 mg sodium, 8 g fiber