Sunday Suppers (Saturday Edition): Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie with Stuffing Crust

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie with Stuffing CrustThis year, we took an early Thanksgiving meal down to Pinehurst. My mom made some of the food, and I made some of the food, and we all ate in Uncle Ray’s room at the nursing home. One of the many wonderful staff people there brought in a card table from the activities room so we wouldn’t have to serve from the bed, and we all enjoyed a rather festive and tasty time.

Chicken Stock

I used homemade stock as the liquid for the stock. Twice the flavor; twice the gelatin. So. Very. Yum.

Norman Rockwell never painted a Thanksgiving scene like that. And none of us balancing a plate on our knees as we perched on the foam mattress or one of the walkers or wheelchairs would’ve believed that image if someone had mentioned it to us just three years ago. Time does Things to people and to families. It flows through us and around us and changes us. It smooths out rough edges through erosion. Erosion which seems to happen more quickly the older one gets. It leaves us breathless. It makes us more accepting. It requires that we cherish every moment. Because time doesn’t stop, even as we, one by one, fall out of its stream.

chilled chickenstock

Stock Jell-o!

Our family meals—the Holiday ones anyway—were always rather formal affairs. There was plenty of laughter and conversation and gravy boats dropped in centerpieces, but there was also candlelight and fine china and polished silver and white tablecloths.  There were forgotten bags of giblets left in 26-pound turkeys and stories where everyone broke something one year, but there was also prayer and ritual and nice clothes.  There was always room for one more at the table, but nobody ever ate until the hostess was seated.*

Making Gravy

Roux doesn’t mind if you invite along the mirepoix.

So, since we had enjoyed A Very Happy Nursing Home Thanksgiving on Saturday, the name of the game for our meal on Thursday was “relaxed.”  I didn’t want a bajillion serving bowls. I didn’t want to have to count out serving spoons. What I wanted was comfort.  And having just made the pot pie a couple of weeks ago, I figured that Something Similar would definitely fit the bill for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie with Stuffing Crust


Here’s what I like to eat at Thanksgiving: beige stuff. Potatoes. Stuffing. Gravy. Turkey. In that order.  But, to keep dinner from looking too monochromatic and institutional, I also tossed in some sweet peas, diced sweet potatoes and a big old handful of Craisins. The beige parts played the part of the bottom crust (stuffing), top crust (mashed potatoes), and the rest of the filling (turkey chunks and gravy). Although we used chicken. But you can use turkey.

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie with Stuffing Crust

A peek under the hood…

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie with Stuffing CrustThis dish is a wonderful way to use up your leftovers, so don’t feel like you must Strictly Adhere to this recipe. But do make the stuffing crust. It was Rather Awesome.

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie with Stuffing Crust
Recipe type: Casserole
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
Warm and filling, this "shepherd's" pie is brimming with Thanksgiving flavors. I realize that most turkeys and chickens do not require Shepherds, but please just go with it for the sake of the season and the mashed potatoes.
What You Need
For the Crust
  • About 2½-3 cups of stuffing/dressing made from the recipe of your choice (leftover is just fine)
  • About ½ cup turkey or chicken broth/stock
For the Potatoes
  • 2 each medium Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes (you can use all of one or the other, I'm just letting you know what I did).
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • about 2 ounces butter
  • about 1 cup warmed milk (maybe a bit more. I just put it in a pan over medium heat until it was hot but not scalding)
For the Filling
  • 3 Tablespoons fat (you can use oil, butter, coconut oil, chicken fat--whatever you like here)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 large rib celery, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1-1½ cups chicken or turkey stock
  • sweet potatoes in ½" dice. (I used about ½ cup or so, I guess)
  • 2-3 cups diced chicken or turkey (leftover is fine. If you're making "new," the meat doesn't have to be cooked all the way through since it'll bake up in the pie)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
What To Do
For the Crust
  1. If you're using cold, leftover stuffing, cut it into kind of manageable 1" chunks.
  2. Put in the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add ¼ cup of stock and pulse until it still has some texture but isn't too chunky.
  4. Test to see if it is still crumbly. If it is, add the other ¼ cup of stock and pulse again.This stuff will be sticky, so look out.
  5. Spray a deep-dish pie pan lightly with pan spray.
  6. Dump the stuffing into the pan and roughly press it out with the back of a spatula. Lightly spray this with pan spray so you can work with it, then press the stuffing in the pan and up the sides trying to make it look as nice as possible. It should be about ¼" thick.
  7. Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes, until the crust is dry on top and has taken on some color. If any of it has slumped, you may have to futz around with it a bit once it comes out of the oven. Just press it back in place with a spatula or something. It will be fine. Set aside.
For the Mashed Potatoes
  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1" dice (more or less) and place them in a pan of cold water.
  2. Add a healthy sprinkle of salt and several grinds of black pepper to the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let the potatoes simmer about 12 minutes until tender. Check by stabbing them with a knife. They should offer no resistance. Resistance if futile.
  3. Drain off all the water, put the lid on the pan and let the potatoes dry over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Mash the potatoes with your favorite masher.
  5. Add a bit of salt and pepper and the butter and mash well to combine.
  6. Taste for seasoning and add the milk, a bit at a time, until you like the consistency. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cover and set aside to stay warm.
For the Filling
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat until hot.
  2. Add the fat. When it is melted and shimmering, add the onions, carrots and celery (mirepoix) to the pan along with a heavy pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and the poultry seasoning.
  3. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are softened and somewhat translucent.
  4. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes or so. The mixture will seem very dry. If you want to add a bit more fat, you can. It's your call.
  5. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. The mixture will be quite thick. You can add a bit more stock if you want, if you want your final pie to have a bit more gravy in it. Personally, I think thicker is better.
  6. Add in the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes, just to give them a head start since they're kinda hard.
  7. Stir in the peas and cranberries and stir everyone around for a minute.
To Assemble and Bake
  1. Spread the filling evenly in your stuffing crust.
  2. Top with the mashed potatoes, making it swirly if you want.
  3. Tent the pie with foil and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more at 375F.
  5. Take the pie out of the oven, tent with some foil, and let set up about 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Other Stuff to Know
I used a blender to make the crust. Use the food processor. It'll be much easier. Trust me.

My stuffing, if you're interested, contained cubed stale Italian bread, onion/celery/carrot (cut up itty bitty in the food processor and sauteed in a boatload of butter), mild pork sausage, dried cranberries, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, stock and an egg.


Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving in whatever form it took this year.

How have your holiday traditions changed over the years?

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.


*I like that rule, by the way. So if you eat here, please follow It.





  1. Camille says

    I love this! We actually did something very similar last night with our leftovers: leftover pie crust, blind baked and filled with leftover Brussels sprouts, turkey, roasted parsnips (ok, I had to do those just for the pie), and gravy. I topped it with pieces of mushroom bread pudding/stuffing and baked until hot and bubbly. Delicious!

  2. says

    I finally had a chance to make this and I love it! My husband made me try it first, he’s always kind of leery of some of the things I make because we just don’t agree on foods, but he actually liked it and had seconds! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. says

    This is my kind of eating and why wait for leftovers after a formal meal? I say start with this. And I think I will….make this from scratch because nothing screams comfort and family like a turkey pot pie or shepherds pie. This one is magnificent!

  4. says

    What a beautiful and touching way of sharing your Thankgsiving experiences, both past and present.

    This recipe has inspired me to do something creative tomorrow night with the leftovers still on-hand. Kind of like the swan song of Thanksgiving 2014.


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