I love a big bowl of comfort in the winter. I could eat chili, mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings and beef and vegetable stew all winter long! I could…but, I don’t. It seems like it has been months since I made a classic comfort food dish. Well…maybe not that long as I did make Gnocchi a la Parisienne this month (it was love on a plate). Even so, the craving was nagging at me.
One comfort food I have never made (or eaten) is shepherd’s pie. I knew that it was meat and mashed potatoes. I knew it cold be beef or lamb. I knew it could have vegetables or not. But I never felt compelled to make it. Not until I saw the French version by Dorie Greenspan. Turns out, French shepherd’s pie is a very comforting dish!
Hachis Parmentier adapted from Around My French Table by Greenspan
Makes 4 generous servings
Hachis Parmentier is a well-seasoned meat-and-mashed-potato pie that is customarily made with leftovers from a boiled beef dinner, like pot-au-feu. If you have leftover beef and broth, you can use it.
This is the Dorie Greenspan Recipe where you will start from scratch.
For the beef and bouillon:
1 pound cube steak or boneless beef chuck, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, sliced
1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
1 small celery stalk, trimmed and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 cups water
1/2 beef bouillon cube (optional however I used better than bouillon as the base)
For the filling:
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sausage, sweet or spicy, removed from casings if necessary
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the beef: Put all the ingredients except the bouillon cube in a Dutch oven or soup pot and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam and solids that bubble to the surface. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours. The broth will have a mild flavor, and that’s fine for this dish, but if you want to pump it up, you can stir in the 1/2 bouillon cube — taste the broth at the midway point and decide.
Drain the meat, reserving the broth. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and discard the vegetables, or if they’ve still got some flavor to spare, hold on to them for the filling. Traditionally, Hachis Parmentier is vegetable-less, but that shouldn’t stop you from salvaging and using the vegetables. Strain the broth. (The beef and bouillon can be made up to one day ahead, covered and refrigerated.)
Using a chef’s knife, chop the beef into tiny pieces.
To make the filling: Butter a 2-quart oven-going casserole — a Pyrex deep-dish pie plate is just the right size for this.
Put a large skillet over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. When it’s hot, add the sausage and cook, breaking up the clumps of meat, until the sausage is just pink. Add the chopped beef and tomato paste and stir to mix everything well. Stir in 1 cup of the bouillon and bring to a boil. You want to have just enough bouillon in the pan to moisten the filling and to bubble up gently wherever there’s a little room; if you think you need more (a smidgen more is better than too little), add it now. Season with salt and pepper, especially pepper. If you’ve kept any of the vegetables from the bouillon, cut them into small cubes and stir them into the filling before you put the filling in the casserole. Scrape the filling into the casserole and cover it lightly; set aside while you prepare the potatoes. (You can make the dish to this point up to a few hours ahead; cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate.)
For the topping:
2 pounds Idaho (russet) potatoes, peeled and quartered (I used Yukon golds for the buttery taste and texture)
1/2 cup whole milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used light sour cream)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits ( I cut this to 2 total and did not top the potatoes with additional butter)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyère, Comte, or Emmental
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
To make the topping: Have ready a potato ricer or food mill (first choices), a masher, or a fork.
Put the potatoes in a large pot of generously salted cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes; drain them well.
Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat (you’ll use it as a drip catcher).
Warm the milk and cream. (I did not warm prior to mixing with potatoes)
Run the potatoes through the ricer or food mill into a bowl, or mash them well. Using a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, stir in the milk and cream, then blend in the 3 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the potatoes over the filling, spreading them evenly and making sure they reach to the edges of the casserole.
Sprinkle the grated Gruyère, Comte or Emmental over the top of the pie, dust with the Parmesan (if using), and scatter over the bits of butter. Place the dish on the lined baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling steadily and the potatoes have developed a golden brown crust. Really, who doesn’t love a golden bubbly topping??
A simple green salad a glass of red wine is all you need! Filling and oh so comforting!
Quick Hachis Parmentier. You can make a very good hachis Parmentier using ground beef and store-bought beef broth. Use 1 pound ground beef instead of the steak, and when you add it to the sausage in the skillet, think about adding some finely chopped fresh parsley and maybe a little minced fresh thyme. You can also saute 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves, split and germ removed, in the olive oil before the sausage goes into the skillet. Moisten the filling with the broth and proceed with the mashed potato topping.