Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili Shepherd’s Pie

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not sure if it’s because of my Irish heritage, if it’s because the city I live in gets so swept up in the holiday (they dye the river green, for goodness sake), or if it’s because I finally have an excuse to eat potatoes and drink beer all day without judgment. Either way, I always go all out. And St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without some delicious shepherd’s pie.

This shepherd’s pie, however, is a little nontraditional. It’s actually a slightly healthier spin on the more conventional shepherd’s pie, which is loaded with white potatoes and lamb. Instead, I use the nutrient-loaded sweet potatoes and lean ground turkey. Not only that, but the depth of flavor in this dish is unbelievable. It’s spicy, sweet, creamy, crunchy, cheesy, and with a hint of citrus. It’s to die for.

Potatoes, chili, and cheese? It's comfort food in a pan.

What you’ll need:
4 large sweet potatoes
1 orange to zest
4 tablespoons margarine
1 cup sour cream (or you can use Greek yogurt)
2 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 large onion
1-2 chili peppers (depending on how spicy you like it) – I used 1 jalapeno
1 red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 small 5 ounce can of tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded sharp yellow Chedder
Salt and pepper to taste

Get all your ingredients ready to go, because once you start you won't have much downtime with this dish!

What you’ll need to do:

Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove to boil and preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Then, peel your sweet potatoes and cut them into manageable cubes so they’ll cook faster (about 2 inches in diameter will do just fine). Once they’re cubed, get them in the pot of boiling water.

While the potatoes cook, put your ground turkey in a very large pan sprayed with cooking spray over high heat and break apart with a wooden spoon. Seriously, use the biggest pan you have or you’ll run out of room – I resorted to using my wok. While the turkey cooks, peal and chop your onions. Once your turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onions and turn over with the wooden spoon to mix.

While the turkey and onions are cooking, start chopping your peppers. Add your chopped peppers and the garlic to the turkey and onion. Then, stir in your spices – the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and coriander. Remember, when measuring your spices, one palmful equals one tablespoon! Lastly, add your chicken broth and tomato paste, and let it simmer on the stove until your potatoes are done (around 10 minutes or so).

This chili would be good even by itself. But paired with the creamy potatoes, it's phenomenal.

By now, your potatoes should be tender when poked with a fork (that’s how I know they’re done). Drain, and return to the hot pot or a large bowl to mix. Because I always love an excuse to play with kitchen gadgets, I use my electric hand mixer to mix the potatoes, margarine, sour cream, and orange zest (ooh! I get to use the zester too!).

If you don't have an electric mixer, good ol' elbow grease can do the trick, too. I like to leave my potatoes a little chunky for pops of sweet potato.

Prepare a 9×13″ pan by spraying with cooking spray. Then, smooth your potatoes on the bottom of the pan first. Follow by layering on the chili, and then top with the cheese.

I can barely wait to dig into this cheesy, potato-y wonderfulness.

Your shepherd’s pie is almost done! The last step is to pop the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles. After that’s done, all that’s left is to scoop a giant heap onto your plate and dig in!

I must give credit to Rachael Ray, who inspired my version of this dish. So in her words, YUM-O!

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