If you do an image search of Google on this week's French Friday's with Dorie assignment Hachis Parmentier (AH_she Par ment AY) and also on Shepard's Pie, you will see that these two dishes are essentially the same idea...or not...depending on your ethnicity. (Go ahead, click the links...I've done the work for you!) If you are English you would be keenly aware that Shepard's Pie is made with lamb. It would be quite correct to put veggies in it. The Brits call the beef version of this dish Cottage Pie. Here in the US where we seem to have less 'rules' it seems to be made with whatever you have on hand, even turkey. As you must know by now, the French version will certainly taste better for no other reason that it is French and they insist on such things. Dorie has suggested to us subtly that if you were thinking of adding in vegetables (such as from the stock you were simmering) the French would rather you didn't as that is not "traditional". (These days, especially with the Chunnel putting them within a few minutes by train of each other they strive for even more ways to differentiate themselves from the British!) I do happen to think that this particular rule is well played by The French. This is meant to be simple dish of simple pleasures and if you start putting too much crap in it you will complicate things. (Besides, the French would also just laugh at anyone who thought adding a carrot that had been boiled out for over an hour would actually make the dish better!) A quick turn in the kitchen to take what you have on hand, and turn it into a tasty, easy, reinvention that wreaks of casual elegance and personal style. Having written that, I can't help but think that this dish is some sort of French metaphor for their entire philosophy of life.
At its core, this dish is about working your leftovers into something marvelous. (How can this not be some life lesson in wrapped in a recipe?) Getting down to my FFWD assignment I did feel a little silly tackling this one 'from scratch'. How many dishes call for you to make leftovers from scratch? This one did and while it was well worth the trouble I suspect the dish is just as good using leftover beef, ground beef, beef stock, etc. that you have on hand.
Suffering from really low light in my house once the sun goes down I just couldn't make this dish look as good as it tasted given I was forced to photograph with existing light. Getting the photo this week was the hardest part of the assignment!
As usual, the group has asked us not to post the recipe in the hopes that you will buy the book. Dorie herself however released the recipe during her interview with Poor Man's Feast and you can find it here.
My own personal kitchen notes on this one remind me that I did not use a bouillon cube as suggested but instead I added a glop (a glop is equal to a heaping tablespoon in my parlance) of beef demi-glace to the broth just as the meat was finishing its prep cook and the broth. When eating I could tell this was a great idea as the beefy flavor profile was perfect and held up nicely to the Italian pork sausage that was used. Also, I ran the potatoes through a ricer which gave them a very delicate texture that seemed a bit too fine for this dish. (I was probably the only one at the table to give this a thought, however.) I think this was a step I didn't really need and could have just done a regular whipping given the hearty nature of this dish. Do a lot of tasting along the way to adjust the seasoning levels as you go so you don't end up with a bland dish. Nobody likes that!
Update: Dorie made this on NPR's All Things Considered today (11/1/10). The link to the story and the audio is here.