Lured by the Fennel's Call (a different shepherd's pie)

Stopped off at Jones’ on the way back from the dog park this afternoon to pick up a couple groceries.  Ever since I roasted that turkey and mashed those potatoes on the Solstice, I’ve been thinking about making a shepherd’s pie.  But what to tuck under that mashed-potato-topping besides turkey, a few carrots, and some garlic from the garden?

I’ll admit I’ve been eyeing the fennel over there in the produce section.  I usually sail through that part of the store, snug and smug that I don’t need anything–I’ve got all the canned and preserved and crisper-drawered vegetables and fruits I need.  But my fennel didn’t do well–I planted it too late this year and didn’t give it enough attention, and finally I succumbed to the crisp, bulbacious, licorice-y call from the Jones’ produce aisle.

I picked through the parsnips, too–couldn’t help it!  I was on a roll.  And I managed to find one not utterly dessicated specimen there to add to the basket.  I’ve been planning on growing parnsips for at least three years–maybe 2009 will be the year.

Once in awhile I’ll be slightly annoyed if the checker doesn’t know what a vegetable is that their store is selling, but most of the time I’m just happy to expand their vegetable lexicon.  Tonight’s checkers didn’t know either of the veggies I brought up, but when I said that green, ferny, bulby thing was fennel, one of them asked if that was the same thing as that toothpaste in the natural foods section.

Yay!  They had Tom’s fennel toothpaste, too!  I ran over and got some.  My son hates all kinds of mint toothpaste–even my favorite wintergreen, but we both love the fennel.

At home, I chopped the fennel, carrots, and parsnip (peeled–they coat them in wax), and put them in a frying pan with a little water and a pat of butter, plus spices.  I clapped the lid on, started them boiling for a couple minutes, then removed the lid and let the water cook off until they were tender and slightly caramelized.  I added the leftover gravy plus a little water and red wine, and let the gravy dissolve into the pan around the veggies.

To the mashed potatoes, I added a bit of plain yogurt, a beaten egg, and some shredded cheddar cheese to give them a spread-able consistency that would firm up on baking.  The turkey and veggie-gravy mix went in the bottom of the pan, the potatoes were spread on top.

I seasoned the veggies and gravy with salt, pepper, nutmeg, chipotle, and thyme–it seemed like a good night for a different mix of spices to go with my different mix of vegetables.  It’s almost ready to come out of the oven–350 degrees for about a half hour, then the broiler for a couple minutes to brown the top.  It smells incredible.

And I still have over half a fennel bulb left.  Good thing there’s yet more turkey, and more turkey stock.  Turkey-carrot-fennel soup is sounding pretty good, too.  Maybe with some millet?


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