Casseroles are easily one of my top ten favorite dinners. A casserole is usually easy to make, everything is in one pan, and cleanup usually involves putting saran wrap over the pan and sticking it in the fridge.
Win. Win. Win.
A while back, I saw a recipe for Shepherd's Pie with Potato, Parsnip, and Goat Cheese Mash on one of my favorite food blogs, Rosemarried. It looked easy enough (I had a newborn at the time) and, more importantly, it tasted amazing.
This is where I should probably mention, however, that I hate goat cheese. Hate, hate, hate it. Goat cheese, to me, tastes like the goat itself. I'm sad that I don't like it because it seems so cultured, so healthy, so Portland! Alas, I've tried it several times and with several different dishes and I just can't get past that goat-y taste.
So, the beauty of this recipe is that it is really, really, really easy to tweak it to your palate's preference. For instance, the first time I made it I stuck with the basic potato topping, but this week I substituted mashed cauliflower instead. Guys, it was awesome. The cauliflower combined with the parsnips created a sweet and savory topping that paired nicely with all the veggies and meat.
I'm really sorry that I don't have a picture for you. I could take a picture of the leftovers in the fridge, but that is not very appetizing and I really want you to give this a try.
Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower and Parsnip Mash
Adapted from Rosemarried
1 lb ground beef
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbs tomato paste
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 small head of cauliflower
2 Tbs cheese of choice (I used cheddar, gasp)
1/2 cup sour cream (or more to taste)
2-3 Tbs butter, unsalted
1/4 cup milk (or more to taste)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 305 degrees and spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray. (The original recipe also suggests putting it in individual ramekins which is a great idea!)
Cut your parsnips into 1 inch rounds and toss in a large pot. Cut the stalk off the cauliflower, pull apart the florets and toss into the same pot as the parsnips. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and drain off the water. Throw in the butter, sour cream, a little bit of milk (you don't want to add too much and end up with too much liquid), rosemary and salt & pepper. Mash it all together and add more sour cream or milk as needed. This is really up to your taste. I like the consistency to be a little more lumpy, but I know my dad likes his mashed cauliflower to be really creamy. Taste it as you go! Once you've got the consistency right, stir in the cheese.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a non-stick, large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes. Next, add the celery, carrots and peas and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and put in a bowl. We'll get back to these later.
In the same skillet brown the meat with the thyme, salt & pepper, and red pepper flakes. Once cooked, drain off the fat and throw the veggies back in along with the tomato paste. Stir it all together and let it cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes more.
Pour the veggie/meat mixture into your baking dish. Top with the mashed cauliflower and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over that...just a little. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it is nice and brown. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes before digging in.