The first time I ever had Hachis Parmentier was in a French restaurant that had just opened in our home town in North Carolina. It was almost twenty years ago. My love of French cooking was already established but I had never heard of this dish before. I loved the earthiness of the minced beef filling and the fluffy mashed potatoes flavored with Gruyere cheese. It was like an amped up version of cottage or shepherd’s pie.
When I bought Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Around My French Table, last year I bookmarked her recipe for this casserole. What intrigued me about her version of hachis parmentier was the option of using cubed steak instead of chunks of beef. She also included sausage in the minced meat for the filling.
But the real star of this dish is the mashed potato topping. The potatoes are lighter than normal because they use more milk and cream. Also the Emmenthal (French Gruyere) cheese give them such lip-smacking flavor, that I was in danger of devouring the whole dish by myself.
There are a lot of steps to putting the casserole together, but they can be done in stages. Believe me, it is worth your time.
HACHIS PARMENTIER (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table)
FOR THE BEEF AND BOUILLON
1 lb cube steak cut into small pieces
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch slices
1 celery stalk cut into 1 inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
5-7 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups of water
Add all of the ingredients into a large dutch oven, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for
about an hour and a half until the meat is tender and the broth is flavorful. Skim off foam in the early stages. Remove the beef from the broth and set aside. You can also reserve the vegetables if you’d like to use them or discard them. If you want to use them, cut them into small dice. Strain the broth through a sieve and reserve for the next step. You will likely have more bouillon than you’ll need.
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 lb of sausage, removed from casing
Beef from the bouillon step, cut into very small pieces by hand plus vegies if using
1 cup of bouillon cooking liquid
1 beef bouillon cube
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When your pan is hot, add the olive oil, followed by the sausage.
Break the sausage up into small pieces as it cooks. As soon as it is just barely cooked through, add in the beef, vegies and the tomato paste and combine. Add in the bouillon and the bouillon cube. Depending on the amount of meat you have you may need a little more or less than a cup. Cook to allow the boullion cube to dissolve. You want the mixture to be moist and bubbly but not soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish (see Putting it all Together below). You can also reserve mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to make the final dish.
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup milk
1/4 half and half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese or Emmenthal cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of butter to dot on top
Place the potatoes in a cold dutch oven or large soup pot and cover with water by a couple of inches. Add a
generous pinch of salt, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Keep at a slow boil until the potatoes are soft. Drain and transfer back into the pot (the warm pot will keep your potatoes warm) and mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill. Add in milk, half and half, and butter and mix until the consistency is smooth. A whisk is helpful here. You want your potatoes to be a little more moist than you would for stand-alone mashed potatoes.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the filling into a 2 qt.casserole dish (Dorrie recommentds a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate). Press the filling down with the back of the spoon, making it even and flat. Spoon the
mashed potatoes on top of the filling and spread evenly over the whole surface. Make sure to “seal” the edge of the casserole with the potatoes. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the top of the potatoes, then dot with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. I turned on the broiler at the end of the cooking time to brown the top better.