It was a bit crazy in the kitchen the day I made Hachis Parmentier.
Vocabulary homework, spelling reviews, math problems, an upcoming social studies test, school picture orders (they want me to pay how much???), and I don’t remember what else was going on, but I felt like I was being pulled and tugged at and many demands were made for my EXCLUSIVE AND UNDIVIDED attention from humans and cats alike, mostly about food. (When do we eat? What’s for dinner? Mom, I’m hungry! Meow!)
Oh, yeah, and on top of all that, my camera wasn’t working. It would work, and then it wouldn’t. I switched batteries, changed lenses, removed the memory card and put it back…I even, I am ashamed to say, smacked the side of the camera (gently) in frustration.
“Well…just bring it somewhere tomorrow to have it fixed,” Bill said, with the shrugging, what’s-the-big-deal? attitude of someone who HAS NO IDEA WHAT KIND OF CRISIS THIS IS!
I still don’t know what was wrong, but after lots of taking things out and off and putting things back on, my dear camera decided to work again.
We now return to our Hachis Parmentier, already in progress.
I made a bit of a change, by the way. Instead of using water and beef bouillon, I just used 6 cups of beef stock, which we had in the freezer. (In the “stock freezer,” actually. Chicken, beef, fish, crab, and clam stocks.) Other than that, I kept things the same.
Here’s the strained broth, by the way. I kept the carrots and celery and chopped them to smaller pieces, to include with the beef in the filling. I didn’t really need to cook the stock as long as indicated in the book, because I was already using beef stock and the flavor was fine. So the vegetables, as a result, still had plenty of flavor.
By the way, until I got smart and looked it up, I avoided saying “Hachis Parmentier” out loud because I didn’t know how to pronounce it. Well, I kind of figured out the “Parmentier” part. Par-men-tee-ay. Or Par-men-tyay. But “Hachis” was a puzzler. Ha-chis, with the ch like “chick” or “cheese,” or (here’s the Scot coming through) was it more of a gutteral “K” sound? Hackis? It didn’t work for me.
Then, tired of mumbling “Hmbmbmbm Parmbmbmbm” all the time (because I often go around muttering the names of dishes I’m going to cook. It’s either that or allow the strange lyrics Julia comes up with take root in my brain and drive me further along the journey to madness), I looked up the pronunciation.
AHA! HA-shee PAR-men-tee-yay! Well that sounds sensible. And more French than “Hackis.” I was happy just to be able to say it.
No more mumbling! I said it loud, I said it proud:
HACHIS PARMENTIER! HACHIS PARMENTIER!
And then my children begged me to be quiet and my husband threatened to take away my copy of Around My French Table, so I stopped.
Here’s the sausage, the chopped cube steak, the carrots and celery, and the tomato paste, about to blend together deliciously.
Now, fast-forward, past the actual – and really, very easy – making of Hachis Parmentier – to the writing of this post.
It suddenly occurred to me that while I could say the name of the dish,
I didn’t know what it meant! I hadn’t looked that up. And, frankly, “hachis” doesn’t sound all that French to me. (And I’m such an authority.)
Anyway, I looked up the words, and everything fell into place in my slow-to-catch-up brain.
Hachis refers to a minced or chopped mixture of meat and herbs. (Corned beef HASH, anyone? Duh!)
Parmentier refers to a food “garnished with potatoes.”
Well then. I’m happy now.
And below, speaking of potatoes, there they are.
Going through the ricer!
All ready to go!
I could eat them all, just like that.
But no, I had to complete the recipe, and quickly, just in case the camera decided to go on strike again.
Here’s some butter and Gruyere. Mmmm. Shreddy.
And now, – the assembly. I spooned the meat mixture – the hachis, or, more accurately, the hachis avec carottes et céleri. I don’t know if that’s a correctly constructed phrase, but it’s certainly looking like a correctly constructed meal. Let’s continue.
Time to garnish with potatoes. My favorite part. I spooned the potato mixture into the dish, on top of the meat (and veggie) mixture, and smoothed out the top.
Then I sprinkled the grated Gruyere on top and added the bits of butter.
I really would have happily dug in right then with the same big spoon I used on the mashed potatoes moments ago, but I knew it would be even better if I waited.
So into the oven went the Hachis Parmentier, and I scurried around in a housewifely manner, setting the table and fretting about all the dishes I would have to do later.
I don’t know if this happens to you, but it seems like no matter how simple a dish might be to prepare, if I am rushed or stressed or tugged-upon-by-many-hands-both-large-and-small while preparing the meal, I use WAAAAAAAAAAY more bowls and spoons and spatulas and knives and pans and EVERYTHING than I could possibly really need. Really. One bad day I used two frying pans, the food processor, seven wooden spoons, three whisks, two plates and twelve knives just to make a peanutbutter sandwich. Just peanutbutter! Not even jelly! Okay, I exaggerate. Only eleven knives.
That was the oven timer. I took a peek, rotated the pan to get more even browning (oooooh, browning potatoes and cheese!!!!) and set it for another ten minutes.
After a really fragrant eternity, it was done.
And because my camera had been so, so…recalcitrant earlier, I was afraid to even switch lenses, just in case. So the pictures I took while the Hachis Parmentier cooled a bit on top of the stove are not very good. But still. You get the idea. Golden brown, cheesy, potatoey yummiliciousness.
My husband and children were, by this time, already seated, pounding their spoons and forks against the table, demanding nourishment and threatening mutiny.
I brought the hot bowl (actually, it’s my favorite souffle dish) to the table and served it up.
We all burned our mouths.
Well, okay, full disclosure: Alex (predictably) didn’t like the Parmentier aspect of the dish. But he liked the hachis.
I ate his potatoes. I hate waste.
Ohhhh, what a tremendous meal this was! Rich and meaty, with the fluffy potatoes and the crispy golden-brown bits of cheese on top (Dorie is right – that’s the best part), hearty and filling and satisfying.
I should have doubled it. Or tripled it. Maybe I’ll make it again next week.
Yes, I think that’s a good idea.