A Delish Classic in Any Country – Hachis Parmentier

According to Wikipedia :

“In haute cuisine, hachis Parmentier is a dish made with mashed, baked potato, combined with diced meat and sauce lyonnaise and served in the potato shells. In general use, a simpler version is the French equivalent of cottage or shepherd’s pie.
The dish is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist, nutritionist, and inventor who, in the late 18th century, was instrumental in the promotion of the potato as an edible crop. The word “hachis” means a dish in which the ingredients are chopped or minced, from the same root as the English word “hatchet”.”

My Mom is going to see this and be like, “What? I’ve been cooking French food all this time?” Shepherd’s Pie was always a classic around our house. It was even a standard in the public school cafeteria. It is woven into our culture. I guess that means we’re French 😉

The sauce that distinguishes this dish is called a Lyonnaise Sauce and was invented by Duke Philippe De Mornay, Governor of Saumur, France, sometime in the late 1500s. He was a leader of the Hugenots. Apparently Mornay also invented many other sauces ; Mornay Sauce, Sauce Chasseur, Sauce Porto and that ever favorite French cheese sauce the Bechamel sauce!

So today I’m going to share with you my variation on Shepherd’s Pie or Hachis Parmentier. First it is absolutely imperative that you make your own mashed potatoes. Please, humor me and do not purée them into liquid. So for this recipe I am officially forbidding the use of all electric mixers, blenders, and food processors. Only elbow grease will obtain the perfect texture, so all you’ll need is a fork or potato masher. Lumps are essential in creating the right combination of flavors. Large lumps. Big chunky bits of potato all smooshed together with some savory sumpin’ sumpin’ seasonings. mmmm…

About those potatoes… Different potatoes have different flavors, and textures, and juiciness. So I’m recommending good old fashioned brown skin potatoes. Whatever potatoes your region has in knarly shapes with thick skins and clumps of dirt hanging onto them. Apparently, they’re a dying breed. The farmers are planting fewer brown skinned potatoes because the stores are ordering more white skinned potatoes because the consumers don’t want to get dirt in their SUVs! So let’s get our priorities straight. Stop making decisions based on which potato leaves less dirt in your car and start making decisions based on what tastes good. (Let’s face it you could stuff those potatoes into a paper shopping bag and save yourself the vacuuming if you really wanted to – you are using paper right?) In this case I used potatoes from my friend’s garden so they were quite tasty.

Hachis Parmentier

4 russet potatoes
2 turnips

1 lb (.5K) ground beef
1 small onion
5 tb (càs) butter
5 tb (càs) flour
1 1/4 C (30cl) cold milk
salt & pepper
1/2 c (12cl) dry white wine, cold

1 baby zucchini

4 tb (càs) milk
2 portions of laughing cow cheese
salt & pepper

Let’s begin…
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

Put your pot of water on to boil. While the water comes to temperature peel and quarter the potatoes and turnips. Drop them in the hot water, add a dash of salt, and let them boil until they’re tender.

Meanwhile, sauté your beef in a large skillet. Don’t let it get too crispy. You’ll cook it again when you put the dish in the oven later, so the goal here is that the beef turns that white-grey color that’s no longer pink, but not quite yet brown. Remove the meat and use the meat drippings to cook the onion, butter, flour and milk. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Salt & pepper to taste. Add the cold wine, heat until warm. Add the meat, toss until evenly covered. Distribute into a deep baking dish.

Choose a young tender zucchini (5in /12cm) Slice very thin leaving the skin on. Layer the zucchini slices over the beef.

Strain the potatoes and turnips. Mash by hand leaving large chunks of potatoes. Add creamy cheese and several tablespoons of milk so that they don’t get dry. If you can’t find laughing cow cheese you are welcome to replace it with philly cream cheese, or you can substitue both the milk and cheese with 1/4 C (6cl) sour cream (so either sour cream or the cheese + milk combination). Layer the potatoes over the zucchini.

Put the Hachis Parmentier in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden on top.

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