Just to prove I’m Irish, I’m going to repeat myself: To lose weight now and keep it off for life, you simply have to Eat More Things That Grow and Fewer Things That Walk…
But that doesn’t mean you have to cook with no meat, just low meat. And here’s a dish that proves how easy it is to drastically cut calories, fat and bad carbs from a “meat and potatoes” dish without sacrificing taste or texture: Skinny Shepherd’s Pie.
A favorite on St. Patrick’s Day, the traditional version is a mostly lamb and potato stew topped with mashed potatoes made with butter and cream. And though meat, potatoes and fat are tradition with my people (the Irish and the Texans), I knew that unless I was happy being shaped like Mrs. Potato Head, I had to find a better way…
The first fix was in the meat: Though rich in protein and nutrients, lamb roast is also high in fat and cholesterol…with more than 25% of your daily recommended cholesterol in just 3 ounces.
By switching to lamb shanks–which have less marbling and are easier to trim– you immediately cut out (literally) about a quarter of the saturated fat.
Fix number two is in the choice of vegetables: Rather than using potatoes (118 calories and 27 g of carbs per cup) in the stew, we subbed turnips (34 calories and 8 grams of carbs a cup) and generously added in more low calorie and high fiber veg like celery, mushrooms, carrots and protein rich peas.
And by making a magically delicious topping of mashed cauliflower with just a wee bit of potato (with its flavorful and nutritious skin), a 2 big cup serving of this re-designed dish has less than 230 calories rather than 700!
So next time you’re craving the taste of St. Patrick’s Day, outwit the traditional Irish dish with this Skinny Shepherd’s Pie..
SKINNY SHEPHERD’S PIE
For the stew:
2 lamb shanks (Though not necessary, for extra flavor and tenderness, you can marinate the shanks for 24 hours in a couple of tablespoons of garlic and rosemary and 1/4 cup buttermilk.)
2 medium onions, chopped (about 4 cups)
1-2 turnips, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
4 large carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 T chopped garlic
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 T brown rice flour
12 oz mushrooms, any variety, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried oregano
1 1/2 c red wine
2 c beef broth or veal broth
3 T tomato paste
1 c grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 c frozen peas
1 T fresh chopped parsley
Remove the lamb shanks from the fridge and let sit at room temperature while you chop all of your vegetables, garlic and herbs. (Cooking any meat straight from the fridge will make it tough and this gives you time to get your act together.) If you’ve marinated the shanks, wipe off any garlic or rosemary before cooking.
Heat an enameled Dutch oven or a non-stick stew pot on medium heat for a minute, spray bottom and sides with cooking oil and add another T of olive oil–swirling to coat the bottom of the pot–and let heat on medium-high a minute longer. Lightly salt and pepper the lamb shanks and sear on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total. Remove and set aside.
If the pan is dry, add a teaspoon of oil and toss in the onions, turnips, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir and cook 3 or 4 minutes. Sprinkle in salt, pepper and brown rice flour and stir over medium high heat for 5 solid minutes. (You’re not only cooking the veg, you’re cooking the flour so it loses its raw taste before you add any liquid.)
Reduce heat to low, return the shanks to the pot and nestle them into the veg and gravy. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. (Your house, by the way, will begin to smell AMAZING.)
(*Cook’s note: If preparing ahead, you can let the shanks cool in the stew and remove them later. Just don’t forget to add the parsley and peas before you finish the dish.)
When shanks are cool enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bone and trim away all fat and sinew. (2 lamb shanks will yield about 2 cups of real meat and 3/4 cups of fat and sinew.) Toss out the fat and shred or chop the lean meat and stir it into the stew.
CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO TOPPING
If you’ve made my Skinny Mock Mashed recipe, you know the drill on how to make mashed cauliflower using the microwave. But to make this a little more Irish and rustic, I’ve added a microwaved baked potato, with skin, to this mix.
1 medium russet potato, skin on
1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower
1 t salt
1 T Smart Balance Light
1/4-1/2 c fat-free half and half (or plain, unsweetened almond milk)
1/4 c liquid egg whites
Wash the potato, pierce a few times with a fork, wrap in a paper towel and microwave for 8 minutes on high. (When finished, leave it in the paper towel so the skin will continue to soften and set aside.)
Cover with a plate…or a large bowl if you’ve heaped it up too much. When the potato is done, set aside and nuke the cauliflower (NO water needed) for 8-9 minutes on high.
Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree the cauliflower with Smart Balance Light and potato, adding in half and half (and/or almond milk) until the texture is smooth. Taste for seasonings, adding a little more salt if needed.
When the flavor and texture is right, add the egg whites and and puree again until smooth.
Preheat oven to 400 and pour the stew into a large baking dish. (This recipe yields about 11 cups of stew and 7 cups of mashed cauliflower/potato topping so you’ll need a large pyrex or similarly sized baking dish to hold it all.)
Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes until topping has set. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, RECYCLE
If your baking dish isn’t large enough to hold the stew mixture, just bag it and freeze it. It will be a yummy addition to any vegetable soup.