Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table

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I know, I know: potatoes aren’t “Paleo™.” And neither is white rice, heavy cream, or butter.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

Well, at least according to the version of Paleo that many of us eagerly adopted when we first discovered this way of eating. But as I’ve said before

…there isn’t just one definitive, monolithic, one-size-fits-all “Paleo diet.” Some Paleo eaters choose to go super-low-carb, while others of us are happy to munch on a baked potato or a bowl of white rice every now and then. There are Paleo eaters who can’t imagine life without dairy, and more orthodox folks who refuse to touch even a pat of butter with a ten-foot pole. The Paleo tent is big enough to fit a host of different approaches, but the core tenets of ancestral eating remain the same:

  • Prioritize whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich, nourishing foods. Eat vegetables, grass-fed and pastured meats and eggs, wild-caught seafood, and some fruit, nuts, and seeds.
  • Avoid foods that are likely to be more harmful than healthful. Especially when regularly consumed, certain foods can trigger inflammation, cause digestive problems, or derail our natural metabolic processes, including many grains, improperly cooked legumes, sugar, and highly-processed seed and vegetable oils.
  • Once a baseline of health is established, we can reintroduce some of these foods (like dairy, white potatoes and rice—not processed junk foods) to see where each of us sits on the spectrum of food intolerance.

In the beginning, I was briefly Primal (remember my early cheesy phase?) before going strict Paleo. And then, for a couple of years, I pretty much ate according to Whole30® rules, except for some dark chocolate and an occasional restaurant meal. But these days, I find that a bit of white rice and potatoes, along with heavy raw cream in my coffee, agree with me just fine.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

And I’m not alone. Some think this is absolute heresy, but others of us now see Paleo as a springboard that helps us thoughtfully figure out what works best for our own health—not as a set of inflexible commandments to apply unquestioned.

That’s why I appreciate Russ Crandall so much. On his blog (The Domestic Man) and in his book (The Ancestral Table), Russ shines a light on traditional recipes for a modern Paleo lifestyle—dishes that thoughtfully re-incorporate rice, potatoes, and full-fat dairy. Some purists may scoff that Russ’ delicious and healthy dishes aren’t really “Paleo™,” but I don’t care. After all, mine aren’t, either. Also, my take on Paleo puts the emphasis on the “Nom Nom” part, and dogma leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

Since Russ’s The Ancestral Table was published, it’s been a go-to resource on my overflowing shelves. So the other morning, when Big-O asked me to make shepherd’s pie for dinner, I knew just where to turn.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

I was eager to make an authentic shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes crowning the top of a meaty stew. (If you’re a tater abstainer, feel free to substitute the topping with Garlic Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes” or make Julie and Charles’s Farmer’s Pie.)

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8 Things You Didn’t Know About Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table

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I’m ridiculously excited that my week of nightshifts is over because that means I finally have time to geek out on my pal Russ Crandall’s new cookbook, The Ancestral Table. A review copy of his beautiful book landed on my doorstep in the middle of my workweek, and I’ve been counting down the days ’til I can spend an entire day cooking all the dishes I’ve flagged in this book. (My Japanese-food-loving spawn have already demanded that I make Russ’s Teriyaki Chicken, Japanese Beef Curry, and Yakitori—preferably all at once.)

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I already know I’m going to have a blast cooking through this book. Russ is one of my favorite food bloggers ’cause he focuses on perfectly re-creating classic gourmet dishes with traditional, real-food ingredients—and highlights each recipe with sharp, uncluttered photographs to boot. It’s no wonder that his blog, The Domestic Man, was a finalist for Saveur’s Best Special Diets Food Blog Award last year.

If you’re a fan of Russ’s blog, too, you’ll adore his book. Not only does The Ancestral Table feature spot-on international recipes, enlightening food facts, and beautiful photos — it also explains why Russ incorporates rice, potatoes, and dairy in many of his recipes. A good number of us who eat Paleo have added some or all of these formerly-verboten ingredients back into our diet; personally, I’ve found that I feel fine (even better!) consuming “safe starches” in moderate amounts. The bottom line, after all, is that our food should be nourishing and delicious without making us feel like crap afterwards.

A few days ago, I asked Russ if he would reveal some deep-dark secrets about his new cookbook on my blog—and he was kind enough to oblige. Take it away, Russ! (And go pre-order his cookbook!)


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1. Bacon only appears 4 times in the book. The Paleo movement is often associated with bacon, and for good reason; after a cursory data pull (using the Paleo cookbooks I have here at the house), bacon shows up in an average of 13% of all recipes in Paleo cookbooks. In my book, bacon shows up in 3% of the recipes. That’s not a dig against bacon or the presence of bacon in other cookbooks. It’s more of a way to highlight the diversity you’ll find in The Ancestral Table.

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The Domestic Man’s Caldo de Langostinos (Mexican Squat Lobster Soup)

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I’m excited to welcome my friend Russ Crandall to Nom Nom Paleo as a guest blogger! 

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Russ is a Paleo-friendly home chef and blogger who writes under the name The Domestic Man. After suffering a number of medical hardships, he regained his health through changes in his diet in 2010. He offers a unique culinary approach in the Paleo world: The Domestic Man is less a place for new kitchen experiments and more a site dedicated to re-popularizing traditional heritage foods that are either already healthy or easily modified to meet his dietary parameters.

Russ’s culinary chops and clean, beautiful photography are a constant source of inspiration for me. If you’re not already a huge fan of The Domestic Man, it’s time to catch up: Go bookmark his site, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter!

So without further ado, here’s Russ with a lip-smacking recipe for Caldo de Langostinos!


First of all, I want to take a moment and say thanks to Michelle for letting me write a guest recipe. I’m a huge fan of her site and it’s a little nerve-wracking to think that one of my dishes is going to be on her page! For today’s post I thought I would do something unique by showcasing a criminally-underused seafood that I’ve recently fallen in love with.

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