Friday, September 13, 2013
I'm confused. Several days ago the weather was cool enough to allow the cooking of a pot roast for dinner. Then suddenly it was 94°F and I barely got one batch of cookies baked, despite the air-conditioning blowing at full blast. Each day brings the challenge of what to cook and how to adapt to the variations in autumn's climate. This morning I was able to finish baking the last of the cookie dough, and I had a go at the remains of the pot roast. The results are here; it's the shepherd's pie of French cuisine. Hachis parmentier is usually constructed of leftovers from beef stew, but any braised meat will make a good version of this classic. Trim the meat and chop it coarsely, mix it with some fresh aromatics and any braising liquid or gravy that you may have from the original preparation. Top it with a blanket of freshly-made mashed potatoes, and bake to a bubbling, browned finish. It's comfort food at its best and will make a welcome addition to the dinner menu when the cool, dark evenings linger. Feel free to customize the dish to your liking; add colorful vegetables such as peas or carrots to the meat, make the mash with a combination of root vegetables, adapt the dish to poultry or other meats. And the fancy name might just disguise the fact that it's (leftovers, shhh).
(serves 2 to 3)
Leftover braised or roasted beef (about 10 ounces) along with any gravy or braising liquid.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced*
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
A dash of white wine or balsamic vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup (more or less) warm milk
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Trim the cold beef and cut it into large chunks. Place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to coarsely chop the meat. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute for 2 to 3 minutes to soften. Add the tomato and tomato paste and let it bubble away for another 5 minutes. Add the sugar and a dash of vinegar; taste for balance of seasoning. Add the chopped beef and enough gravy or braising liquid to make a moist but not soupy mixture. Simmer until the liquid reduces and the mixture is thick and flavorful. Stir in the parsley and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. In the meantime, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes, or until they are tender. Push them through a ricer or food mill and add enough hot milk to achieve your preferred texture. Season with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or so of butter. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a baking dish, or 2 or 3 individual ones**. Add a layer of the meat mixture, then top with mashed potatoes. You can score a pattern into the potato topping with a fork, if you like. Dot the top of the dish(dishes) with the remaining butter and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Run under a broiler for a minute or two to bring a browned crust to the potato topping. Serve with a salad or green vegetable.
*I use a serrated vegetable peeler to peel tomatoes; it's a lot easier than blanching and chilling.
**Place your baking dish(dishes) on a parchment-lined sheet, just in case of spillovers.
(adapted from "La Tartine Gourmand")