I started Floptimism when I started cooking. I had literally just switched majors to nutrition and knew a grand total of two things about a healthy diet, I’m pretty sure. So now, as I go back and cook my way through my own blog, slowly but surely, I start to realize that most of the recipes are no longer relevant. There’s absolutely a certain beauty to seeing my evolution fanned out in front of me. It reminds me of my clients, who stand before me as I stood six years ago, knowing that food was powerful but not quite understanding how or why; we don’t change overnight. I didn’t change overnight, with the early recipes of Floptimism being proof of that.
The trouble is that, when the vast majority of recipes on my blog no longer represent the advice I give or the way I choose to eat now, you’re at the disadvantage — you can’t just look back at any post and feel confident that it’s in line with my message as a health professional, and that’s not cool. So 2016 is the year of getting some ducks in a row, of brainstorming and re-imagining and setting into motion changes that have been a long time coming. It’s also the year where I try to remake some of my very oldest posts and wind up with something entirely different from the original.
These stuffed potatoes are that.
The original recipe is actually not for potatoes at all, but for a turkey cutlet stuffed with spinach and boursin. In recreating it, I ran into a few…snags. There’s no such thing, as far as I can tell, as organic, pasture-raised boursin; and it took a trip back to Philadelphia to find the same attributes in a turkey cutlet, which made repeat recipe testing somewhat challenging. On top of that, I have come to loathe stuffed meats because they’re fussy and I always under-cook them. I considered scrapping the recipe altogether and moving on to one that better captured the kind of diet I prefer and often recommend, but then I had an idea.
I thought back to a recipe I grew up with. It was never really my favorite but is so heavily laced with nostalgia that I think I’ll always remember it in a positive light. We called it shepherd’s pie, though I learned much later it was anything but. It was ground beef (and, later, ground turkey), mixed with a red sauce and piled on top of mashed potatoes. It was humble. It was simple. It was not right for Floptimism, but it was the perfect stepping stone for this turkey recipe.
Out went the cutlets and in came some ground turkey; the mushrooms were chopped rather than sliced for an extra “meaty” texture. You could probably decrease the turkey even further. (And yes, to all you vegetarians out there, I definitely think you could get away with eliminating the meat altogether, though I haven’t tried it; I’d suggest a combination of extra mushrooms, lentils, and chopped walnuts.) I scrapped the boursin and peppered the dish instead with a stronger parmesan, so I could use less of it. And then there were the potatoes.
I also had this mashed potato recipe I had been toying with, and I liked it — at least as much as I could like mashed potatoes, which have never really been my thing. I’ve always preferred roasted potatoes, especially the skin, yet found the starchy inside a bit of a let-down. But what if I took the crispy skins I liked and filled them with a spruced-up, lemony mashed potato recipe before baking a second time, and using that as the bed for the sauce?
Let me tell you…it works. It works really well. It also reminds me a lot of the “shepherd’s pie” I grew up with, but with way more vegetables, fiber, and layers of flavor.
As I write this, it’s beautifully sunny out and difficult to imagine another cold, winter evening where a dish like this is both necessary and welcome. I feel like it’s April, and we should be talking about salads endlessly, but I know there’s more winter left before Spring is here for good, so keep this recipe handy. We aren’t likely out of the clear yet, and these “shepherd’s pie” stuffed potatoes can help us get through it.
one year ago: 28 days to happiness, final thoughts
two years ago: unplugged
three years ago: strawberry-cantaloupe breakfast ‘sorbet’
[ no post four years ago ]
five years ago: quick, colorful chicken + veggie skillet
six years ago: rosemary-balsamic chicken with balsamic ravioli, which I’ve since revamped
shepherd’s pie stuffed potatoes.
this is a riff on a meat-and-potatoes dinner I had as a child and always called, falsely, shepherd's pie; here, I've added more fiber, flavor, and - of course - vegetables, yet it is every bit as nostalgic.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and prick holes in the potatoes. Bake them directly on the rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the potatoes, slice in half, and set aside to cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the diced onion, sauteing until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook an addition few minutes, careful not to burn it.
- Add the ground turkey to the pan and saute, breaking up as it cooks. Once the turkey is mostly cooked (about 5 minutes), add the mushrooms, followed by the crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until you're ready to serve.
- Return to the potatoes you had set aside. Preheat the broiler of your oven and line a small baking sheet with foil. Scoop out the insides into a bowl and mix with the yogurt, half of the lemon zest, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and some freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add the remaining lemon zest if desired (I do, but it makes it quite lemony). Stuff back into the potato skins, garnish with a dash of sea salt, and arrange on the prepared sheet. Place under the broiler until lightly browned on top, 5-7 minutes. (Check on it frequently; broilers like to take food from perfect to charred in an instant.)
- While the potatoes broil, add the arugula to the meat and veggie sauce and season with black pepper. Stir in the parmesan and turn the heat down to low until the potatoes are finished.
- Serve 1-2 potato halves per person, depending on the size, with a large spoonful of the sauce on top.
sources, adapted: cuisine recipes [the potatoes], turkey recipe loosely inspired by rachael ray
note: for a leaner product, choose 99% lean ground turkey breast over standard ground turkey; I keep meat portions so small, though, and can never find the leaner option from pasture-raised sources, so I often stick to the standard ground.