Hachis parmentier (French cottage pie)
A French country dish that is hearty as it is pleasing.
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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. First, prep all your vegetables and the bacon. Now you’re really French-cooking with your mise-en-place.Skip to next paragraph
The Runaway Spoon
Perre Magness has studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France has broadened her own culinary skill and palate. The kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.
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Pour the oil into a large (5 quart) Dutch oven, then add the finely diced onions. Sauté over medium high heat until the onions start to turn golden and begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water about halfway through to speed up the process. When nicely golden, add the diced bacon and sauté for five minutes until it begins to cook.
Add the carrots, then the celery and continue to sauté until the vegetables start to soften and brown. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add the ground beef and stir, breaking the meat up into small pieces, until browned and no longer pink. Carefully drain off any accumulated fat, then return the pot to the heat.
Add the red wine, beef broth, tomato paste, sugar and cloves and stir well to combine. Drop in all the thyme sprigs (count how many you add so you can remove the stalks later) and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, prick the potatoes all over with a sharp knife and place on the rack in the oven to bake. Cook until the potatoes are soft when squeezed, about 1-1/2 hours. When the potatoes are done, remove from the oven and carefully, wearing oven mitts or using a folded towel, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Add the butter, vermouth and milk and mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Salt to taste (remember that the meat will be flavorful).
When the liquid with the meat is almost completely reduced, with just a little sauce clinging to the meat, remove from the heat. Remove the thyme stalks (the leaves will stay behind) and the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop the meat filling into an 11-by-7-inch baking dish and spread out to make a smooth top. Dollop the mashed potatoes over the filling, then spread out to cover the meat. Using slightly damp fingers is a good way to do this. Try not to let the meat or sauce poke through the potato topping. Use a fork to scrape light lines across the smooth top of the potatoes. This will give a lovely browned crispy effect. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.
The hachis parmentier can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days at this point. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and cook until heated through, golden with some bubbling around the sides, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Related post: Almost-Too-French Onion Soup
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