food Program

Shepherd’s Pie With Chard-Lentil Filling

Contributed by Kim O'Donnel, from the Real Food Right Now series.

Although this is a four-pot affair, it need not feel like a three-ring circus. First item of business: get the lentils on the stove. While they're simmering, work on the onion gravy. While the gravy simmers, boil the potatoes for the mashed topping. Everything comes together in a pie plate.

1 cup wine-braised lentils (details follow)
1 12 cups onion gravy (details follow)
2  lbs medium-size potatoes
(4 to 5 potatoes; my favorites are Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn), washed, trimmed/peeled as needed, and cut into quarters
2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
5 tbsp olive oil
Ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups chard (from 1 bunch), washed, stemmed, and chopped finely into "ribbons"
1 clove garlic, chopped roughly
14 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
14 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Grease a 9-inch pie plate.

Fill a medium-size saucepan with 4 cups of water, and add the potatoes and salt. The water should just barely cover the potatoes.

Cover and bring to a boil. Add the whole garlic. Return the lid and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large mixing bowl and mash with a hand masher. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to moisten the potatoes. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and stir in vigorously with a wooden spoon. Taste for salt, pepper, and texture and season and stir accordingly; mashed potatoes should be smooth and well seasoned.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and cook the chard with the chopped garlic, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes, regularly tossing with tongs to cook evenly. Stir in the nutmeg and season with more salt to taste, if needed. Transfer to a medium-size bowl.

Portion out 1 cup of the lentils (the rest is cook’s treat) and stir into the chard until well combined.

Assemble the pie: Transfer the chard mixture to the greased pie plate. Top with the mashed potatoes, and with a rubber spatula, smooth the mash so that it’s evenly distributed and completely covers the surface. Top off with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Place the dish in the oven and heat through, 20 to 25 minutes. During the final 2 minutes of cooking, set the oven to the broil setting to brown the cheesy-mashed top.

Remove from the oven, slice into wedges, and eat hot with a ladleful of onion gravy.


Wine-Braised Lentils

1 tbsp vegetable oil
12 cup onion, diced
14 cup carrot, peeled and diced
1 sprig fresh thyme, or
12 tsp dried thyme
12 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed (the smaller French lentilles du Puy, with a more refined texture, are my preference, but they're not always available. Use what you can find in your local market.)
2 tbsp red wine you enjoy drinking
34 to 1 cup water
14 to 12 tsp salt

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, carrot and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened.

Add the lentils and stir to coat. Add the red wine (if using) and bring to a lively simmer. The wine will reduce a bit.

Add 34 cup of the water, return to a lively simmer, then lower the heat, cover and cook until fork tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Check and add a little extra water if need be, to keep the lentils from drying out completely. Stir in 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt, if needed.

Makes 1 12 cups. If you love these lentils, amounts may be doubled for a big pot that will keep for days and pair up seamlessly with your favorite grain.


Onion Gravy

3 tbsp butter
2 cups onions, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
12 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
1 tsp soy sauce

In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions and thyme. With tongs, toss to coat the onions with the butter and cook over medium-low heat, until softened, reduced and jam-like, about 25 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar, stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the water and bring to a lively simmer. Reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook for an additional 5 minutes; the gravy will continue to reduce. Stir in the salt and sugar, and taste. Finish off with the soy sauce.

Turn off the heat, cover and gently reheat at a simmer, just before serving with pie.

Learn more about chard in Kim’s full post on Ecocentric Blog.