By A.J. Fusco
Irish traditions run deep in the fire service. One could even go as far as to call March a “holy month” in the firehouse. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations often span weeks surrounding the holiday, including parades, dinners, and fundraising.
You would be hard pressed to find a firefighter who doesn’t get moved by the sound of pipes and drums. Their sound is ubiquitous to firefighter funerals and celebrations alike. The Irish have also given us classic dishes that are perfect for firehouse cooking such as corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie. Anytime you can cook something all day or let something sit on the stove top for hours on end, you can be sure it would make a great firehouse meal. And although I love corned beef, shepherd’s pie allows for much more “experimentation” with ingredients. This is why I chose this dish to try and make a little healthier, while still tasting great.
Shepherd’s pie is a filling dish, consisting usually of either ground lamb or beef in a thick brown sauce, and covered with mashed potatoes. It’ll check off all the “meat and potato” boxes firefighters are looking for.
When I was trying to figure out how to make this a little easier on the waistline, I decided to use leaner ground turkey, which makes for less fat and added protein. This is a great move anytime you want to lower calories as well. The traditional version uses mashed potatoes, usually loaded with butter, but sweet potatoes mesh perfectly without the need for additional dairy. It also adds more vitamins while lowering the carb count when compared to white potatoes, not to mention the flavor of sweet potatoes pairs wonderfully with the turkey and vegetables. This recipe would also pair well with a nice stout, off shift of course!
Turkey-Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
1.5 Lb. Ground Turkey
6 Sweet Potatoes
½ Yellow Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, diced
4 Medium Carrots, peeled and diced
8 oz. Mushrooms, quartered
10 oz. Frozen Peas
10 oz. Frozen Corn
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary- leaves removed and finely chopped
14.5 Can of Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp. Flour
Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 500F.
- In a large pot, place sweet potatoes with enough cold water to cover. Salt the water like you would pasta water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until soft, approximately 30 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
- While the potatoes are cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add a couple glugs of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering add the ground turkey, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. When the turkey starts to brown, stir it until cooked through and set aside. In the same pan add a little more olive oil and the onions and carrots. When the onions are translucent add the mushrooms and saute until nicely browned and no moisture is left in the pan. Add the garlic and rosemary, stirring often.
- Now, add the turkey back to the pan with the peas and corn. Sprinkle the flour in, stir and cook for a minute or so. Add in the broth, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Place mixture in an oven-proof baking dish or tray.
- Now that the potatoes have cooled, peel the skin (you could chop the skin and add to turkey mixture for extra nutrients). In a large bowl add the potato flesh, a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt and the spices. Mash with a fork, taste and adjust seasoning. Spread on top of the turkey mixture. For a nicer presentation place the potato in a ziploc bag, cut one corner tip of the bag and squeeze the mixture on top of turkey like a pastry bag.
- Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the top has browned. You can also use the broiler if you have one. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
A.J. Fusco started Fork and Hose Company in 2011 by as a way to share his passion for cooking with other firefighters. Over time, it grew to a community of firehouse chefs sharing meals and recipes from all over the world, with a focus on healthier cooking. In 2017, A.J.’s dedication to firehouse cooking landed him on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” twice, and on his first show he won the Salute to Firefighters episode! A.J.’s passion for cooking didn’t stop in the firehouse! He enrolled at the International Culinary Center in Manhattan in 2016 and graduated Top of the Class in the Professional Culinary Arts program. A.J. has worked in professional kitchens in Manhattan and Westchester since graduating and continues to do so on his days off from the firehouse.