Growing up, we ate "hachis parmentier" (the French version of Shepherd's pie) quite regularly, either at home or at school. I have always found the original recipe to be rather bland. Here is a Mediterranean /middle eastern twist to a classic- just the thing to "fancy" it up a bit. —Christel Dujardin-Terry
olive oil, divided
medium yellow onions
salt (to taste)
large sweet potatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices
large russet potatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices
garlic cloves, minced
pepper (to taste)
small red pepper, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons
herbes de Provence/ Provence herbs (dried)
ground cinnamon, divided
hot chili pepper flakes
toasted pine nuts
fresh parsley, chopped
low sodium chicken broth
goat cheese crumbles
swiss cheese, gratted
shaved (or shredded) parmesan
roasted and unsalted pistachio nut meat, ground to a coarse grind
Slice the onions in half lengthwise and then in thin slices.
In a large skillet, on medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the thyme sprigs to the melted butter, and add the onion slices. Add a couple pinches of salt and pepper (to taste). Stir to coat the onion slices with the butter.
Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, allowing the onions to turn "brown" in color but stirring them occasionally to prevent burning.
Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the caramelized onions to a bowl. Set aside.
Wash, peel, and slice the sweet potatoes and the potatoes.
In a medium saucepan, add water to cover the sweet potatoes slices by about 1-2 fingers. Bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, making sure to maintain the water at a low boil, until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes.
Repeat in a different pot/saucepan with the potato slices.
While the potatoes and the sweet potatoes cook, chop the garlic. In the skillet previously used to caramelize the onions, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped garlic.
When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the ground pork and the ground beef to the pan, breaking the meat in small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. As the meat begins to brown, add the chopped red pepper, the herbes de provence, 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the cumin, and the hot chili pepper flakes. Stir well until the spices are well incorporated into the meat. Cook the meat about 5 minutes, until fully browned.
Remove the meat from the heat, add the pine nuts and the chopped parsley to the meat mixture, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Once cooled, in a separate bowl, beat the egg and add it to the meat mixture. Stir well to distribute the egg evenly.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drain the potatoes. Add them back to the empty pot where they were cooked. Mash them coarsely, adding 2 tablespoons of butter to the potatoes as you mash them. Add the heavy cream until you reach the consistency you like. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper to the potatoes. Set aside.
Drain the sweet potatoes. Add them back to the empty pot where they were cooked. Mash them coarsely, adding butter as you mash. Add the chicken broth (or water if you prefer) to the sweet potatoes until the sweet potatoes reach your preferred consistency. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Spray a large casserole dish with butter, or use 1 tablespoon of butter to butter its sides. Start by spreading the sweet potato mash in an even layer at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the goat cheese crumbles evenly on top of the sweet potatoes. Make another layer on top of the goat cheese using half of the caramelized onions. Add the meat mixture on top, and then cover the meat layer with the remaining half of the caramelized onions. Finish with the mashed potato layer.
In a separate mixing bowl, prepare the crumble topping. Add the swiss, the parmesan, the ground pistachio meat and the basil to the mixing bowl. Stir well to mix. Sprinkle the topping evenly throughout the top of the mashed potato layer.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven when the topping is "golden" and the cheese is melted.
Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
(Accompany with a belgian endive and pomegranate salad with balsamic vinaigrette for an additional twist!)