Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

I never ever aspire to be a vegetarian. I don't even think I could date a vegetarian. But, sometimes there are some really winning recipes out there specifically crafted to be just that... meatless. This is one of them. Vegetarian Shepherd Pie.

I first made Shepherds Pie back in 2013. I was shocked at how easy and seriously delicious it was. Plus, the leftovers were also amazing. Shepherds Pie is essentially topped with mashed potatoes ... and nobody is ever mad at eating those on day 2-5. If they are, I don't want to know them.

This recipe came to me via a NYC chef that I've followed before. I've previously made her Baked Eggplant Rigatoni, Spinach and Lentil Soup, and Caesar Kale Salad. Since I've been working more, I feel like I have less time to actually treat my body like a temple... so this recipe is my attempt at that. I'll just restrict the meat. I did panic at the last minute that this was just "too healthy"... so I added butter and parmesan to the potato topping. Genius.

Here's how it goes.
Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat until they’ve browned. Like two minutes.
(Step 2) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan along with the onion, carrots, and leeks and sauté until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes and cook one minute more. Fold in the lentils and tomatoes. The original recipe also called for cider vinegar... of which I only had champagne vinegar. Obviously different, but it turned out fine. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft, 7 minutes. 
(Step 3) Pour in enough stock to just submerge the lentils (about 2 cups, depending on the size of your pan). Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium-low, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils are al dente, about 30 minutes. Funny story, I added like 3-4 cups of stock because the recipe ingredients called for a quart. I tried to spoon out some of it... and then just gave up. I poured myself a glass of wine and let it reduce down. No big deal.
(Step 4) Place the potatoes in a medium stockpot and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ cup of stock. I didn't save any reserved stock, so I just took a few spoonfuls from the skillet. 
(Step 5) Mash until the potatoes are smooth. Set aside while the lentils are finishing up.
(Step 6) When the lentils are cooked, fold in the mushrooms and taste for seasoning. Transfer to individual ramekins or a medium (8 x 8 or comparable) casserole dish. Top with the potatoes.
(Step 7) Cook under the broiler for 2 minutes to reheat and/or get a nice crust, or simply serve right away.

Shopping List
Extra virgin olive oil
½ pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and diced
Sea salt
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 large leek, halved and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup dried lentils, soaked in water overnight
One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 quart vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

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