Monday, February 9, 2009

You can't go wrong with meat and potatoes!

Me: "Hachis Parmentier".... Juan: "Bless you!". These words might be a mouthful for non French speakers to pronounce (go ahead try it), but don't let it scare you away! Nothing else than a meat and potato dish, Hachis Parmentier is the French version of the Shepherd's Pie. 

Un hachis in French is meat or fish that has been finely ground. Parmentier refers to Monsieur Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, who (among other things) promoted the use of the potato as a food source in France and Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Don't the words sound less scary now? 

I was facing another night of pasta dinner (yet again), as I was staring into my fridge last week. I was definitely not in the mood to cook anything complicated. I had bought ground beef and wanted to do something a little bit different. The weather report was forecasting close to freezing temperatures (for once!) for the following day here in Austin, and so came to me the idea of making this comforting, and very classic French dish.

Commonly served in school cafeterias in France, Hachis Parmentier also always reminds me of THE ultimate frozen food dish sold in France. So there you go, cheap and filling, le hachis parmentier is a crowd-pleaser.

The version I made here is the classic one, with beef. But the beauty of this dish is how versatile it is; You could replace the beef with a mix of vegetables to make it meat-free or use duck meat (why not Confit de Canard?) instead of beef for example. I made enough to serve the both of us for nearly 4 meals, which truly feels good when you have a super busy week like we had last week...! 

Le Hachis Parmentier (serves 4 to 6)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 big yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound of ground beef
3 pounds of potatoes 
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (for the meat)
Up to 1 cup of milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of grated Gruyere cheese or Swiss 
1/2 cup Parmesan (for the mashed potatoes)

Boil water in a saucepan to cook the potatoes. Peel and cut the potatoes in quarters. When the water is boiling, add them and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender (test with a knife: you must be able to cut through them very easily).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onions for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper and cook until brown. Stir in the tomato paste. When everything is all cooked, turn the heat off, combine the egg yolk, stir and add the parmesan cheese. Reserve.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Warm up the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the butter and the cream. Slowly add some warm milk,  and mash with a potato masher, until you get a creamy consistency. You might not need to use all the milk. Season with salt and pepper. 

Lay the meat at the bottom of an oven safe dish (like a lasagna dish) and cover with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with Gruyere cheese (or Swiss) and Parmesan. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Turn the oven temperature to broiler. Place the dish under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is brown. Rotate the dish when one side is brown enough (about halftime). Serve.


The League said...

The weirdest part of all of this to me is that I went to school with a kid named Andy Parmentier. I wish I had known all of this then...

Heidi Leon Monges said...

ummm, love the story, so true!. Even thought sound so chic in french hachis parmmentier is so comfort food in France.

Once I was in Paris, and was very late and everything was closed I ended up eating one hachis parmentienr frozen box (guess was one of Joel Robuchon's) and it was surpringsinly good!....but I bet yours is yummier!!

L. said...

Hey, just did a Hachis last night, still eating the leftover for my lunch! There is nothing easier and comforting than this! Jak loved it too! Thanks again for the recipe and the idea!

Laetitia said...

Heidileion - I know... these frozen hachis parmentier ARE good, aren't they?! You should check out the PICARD brand for frozen food in France. They have wonderful, I mean WONDERFUL dishes. Top quality.

Lucie - Happy to provide you with a comfort food recipe! C'est facile a faire et ca remplit bien le ventre! :)

oregonphotography said...

Have no idea what happened to my first comment....I must have pressed the wrong button.

I will start over. Your Le Hachis Parmentier recipe looks lucious! I will say more after I try it. I have never been to France, or for that matter, Europe.

I am going to follow your blog. Best to you and your family!

BBQing Tips From Deep In The Heart Of Oregon

Laetitia said...

Thom, merci! :) Do let me know how your hachis turned out. I make it often myself because it's such a comfort dish!