I was watching Jaime Oliver on TV the other day and he was making this wonderful potato crust shepherd’s pie, loved it! Simple beautiful comfort food that I just had to try making. It worked and tasted awesome! Now I know what you are thinking. He says everything tastes awesome, but really, it was. I can assure you that not everything I try works to my satisfaction (expectation of awesomeness). But that’s all I show you, and while my wife is the beneficiary of these successful and tasty dishes, she is also the recipient of the failed attempts – which you never hear about. So, I only blog about what I truly like. Today’s blog contains 2 recipes so it’s longer than most, but deliciously worth the read through. Grab a glass of wine – white or red, I’m not particular!

Anyway, I used a combination of sweet potato and Yukon gold as that’s what I had at home. I also used some left over chicken stew from the previous day’s meal. So this is really just a matter of putting it together. Also, as it is just my wife and I at home, I made it using a muffin tray. Out of 3 medium sized potatoes I got 6 of these delightful muffin size pies. They baked beautifully well and I was able to use a spoon and lift them out of the muffin tin with ease. The trick is to bake it long enough. How long? Well, I used buttermilk (I had some left over from some baking experiments, you can use milk or 35% cream) and some butter in my potato mash so it was moist but not loose like I would typically like my mashed potatoes. So how long actually depends on how wet your potatoes are. Use 40 minutes as a starter (mine took 45) and add from there. The oven was a hot 375f – it was on for a good part of the day, lots of baking to make up for the busy periods when I don’t have time to do a blog.

This is truly comfort food and while the weather out there may not be screaming comfort food, we all need some comfort right?! You can actually stuff anything inside this pie. As mentioned, I did leftover chicken stew, but any type of moist leftover will do. This could be served with a salad for a complete dinner – too heavy for lunch I think. You could even do an Indian vegetable (well of course a spicy one) and stuff it in the potato crust. This would make the meal entirely vegetarian which you could then serve with some fish or other acceptable protein. (Chef Maria, can you just imagine this with the Butter Chicken!). I like the versatility, the warm feeling you get when you cut into that potato crust and the gravy from the stew comes oozing out – oh my goodness! So do try it. As always – enjoy!

Potato crust and top
1 medium sweet potato
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
¼ cup buttermilk, milk or cream
2 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized pot, add the potatoes and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1”, to a boil
Boil the potatoes until the tip of a knife pierces easily through the potatoes – remove from the heat and drain – this should take about 45 minutes
Peel the sweet potato – leave the skin on the Yukon (or peel, I happen to like the skin in my mash)
Mash the potatoes together
Season with the buttermilk, butter, salt and pepper – taste, season and taste again
Note: You could also add some fresh thyme or chopped rosemary to the potatoes, sauteed garlic and onions, cayenne pepper etc – use your imagination
Let the potatoes cool slightly

For the filling – my Chicken Stew recipe
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large parsnip, chunked
1 large carrot, chunked
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 bay leaves
½ tsp each, dried thyme, rosemary, chili flakes
Seasoned flour – ½ cup flour with cayenne powder, ground pepper, garlic powder
2 cups Chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Spread the chicken thighs on you cutting board
Season with salt and pepper (I always salt/pepper my meat separately as opposed to adding it to the flour, more even distribution of salt)
Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot
Cut the chicken thighs into approximately 1” pieces
Dredge in the seasoned flour
Brown the chicken pieces – a few at a time, so your chicken sears and caramelizes
When the chicken pieces are seared, drain any excess oil from the pot
Add some more olive oil to the pot, add the onions carrots, celery – stir and cook about 4 minutes
Add the parsnips, stir, cook for another minute
Add the chicken back to the pot along with the dried herbs – stir
Add the stock – bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the tip of a knife easily pierces the parsnips and carrots
If there is too much liquid, uncover and continue to simmer about 5 minutes – remove the chicken and veggies from the pot if they are soft – just reduce the liquid, then add everything back and stir together
Taste, season and taste again – salt, pepper, fresh herbs – remove and discard the bay leaves
After filling the tarts, you will have a little left over, just serve it with the potato tarts or with some crusty bread the next day

Assembling the tarts
Preheat the oven to 375f
Lightly butter the inside of 6 muffin holes
Use 1 heaping tablespoon of potato mash for the base and up the sides – you could use more depending on the size of your potatoes – leave at least one heaping tablespoon for each top
Fill the potato shell with the cooled chicken stew
Take 1 heaping tablespoon of the potato in the palm of your hand and flatten into a circle that will fit over the muffin top
Place the potato on top of the mixture and seal the edges by pressing flat – repeat until all the potato is used up
Bake until the potato is set, firm to the touch – let it cool before removing from the tins
Use a spoon and gently lift up – if there is gravy left over from the stew, pour it on top – mmmmmm!
As always – enjoy!