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French Fridays with Dorie: Hachis Parmentier

Hachis Parmentier is the French version of Shepherd’s Pie. It’s a meat mixture topped with mashed potatoes and baked. I made this last week because I got the recipes mixed up. It doesn’t really matter when I made it though. It was a big hit… Howard gave it 5 forks out of 5. I think it’s my favorite recipe that I’ve made so far from Around My French Table.

I made the Quick Hachis Parmentier from the Bonne Idee in the sidebar. The main reason is that we mainly eat from our meat CSA (read this post about our recent visit to Chestnut Farms), so what I have available is based on what’s in the freezer. I had plenty of delicious ground beef and hot Italian sausage, but no beef chuck, so I went with the quicker recipe.

I know that Dorie explained that this recipe traditionally doesn’t have any vegetables, I felt like I needed some. Instead of the suggested garlic, I diced a carrot, a stalk of celery, and an onion (the vegetables in the bouillion recipe) and sautéed them in the skillet before adding the ground beef. I went a little heavy on the tomato paste because I had frozen the rest of the last can I opened in tablespoon-sized scoops, so I added one of those. Along with a generous handful of chopped fresh parsley, I also sprinkled the meat mixture with some dried thyme for good measure.

Aunt Sarah's Potato Ricer

The potatoes were a revelation. At our house, we prefer our mashed potatoes lumpy rather than smooth. My usual tool is an old-fashioned potato masher, however, being a hoarder of kitchen gadgets, I did have a potato ricer on hand. I’d never used it before. It was Howard’s Aunt Sarah’s, and I’m sure it’s older than me. It was cool how the potatoes looked like rice as I pressed them through the ricer. The tool is aptly named.

I didn’t have cream or whole milk, but I did have half-and-half and 2% milk. Half-and-half is half cream and half milk, after all, so I used the half-and-half for all the cream and half the milk, and then used only half the milk. The potatoes were so smooth and creamy. The trip through the ricer changed the texture completely from my usual lumps. While I won’t give up lumpy mashed potatoes for everyday, this way of making smooth ones is worth repeating for a special-occasion side dish.

For the topping, I used Gruyere and the Parmesan. I baked it an extra five minutes or so to get the top brown enough.

One more thing… The recipe says it makes 4 generous servings. I don’t think I could have eaten one quarter of the dish in one sitting. We actually had it for four different meals, so that’s more like 8 servings.

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Ocho de Mayo (Cinco de Mayo Postponed)

We usually make margaritas and have a Mexican dinner on May 5th to observe Cinco de Mayo, even though, according to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is an insignificant Mexican holiday, observed by more Americans than Mexicans. This year, on the 5th, Howard was still on a business trip to Chicago, so our celebration was delayed until the weekend.

Today was rainy, pouring buckets at times, with some thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. Howard lucked out on the timing of Bella’s walks. He managed to take her out when it was only sprinkling lightly or not at all.

We had a relatively lazy day. We had planned to go to Maine, but the weather didn’t look good. Instead, we combined a shopping errand in Beverly with lunch at Woodman’s in Essex, where the fried clam was invented. Of course, we had fried clams (with bellies), with fries and onion rings. It was greasy and salty and wonderfully decadent.

Dinner was our delayed Cinco de Mayo meal. To start, Howard made his mango guacamole. I made margaritas. We had rice baked with tomatillo sauce topped with shrimp and bacon. It was sort of like a paella, but not exactly. For one thing, the flavors were Mexican, not Spanish. For another, it was mostly baked, not cooked on the stovetop. And, finally, it was much easier to make. It went nicely with a salad of baby arugula with a dressing I made with more tomatillo sauce.

Tomatillo Rice with Shrimp and Bacon
Adapted from Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless
Serves 6

4 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups arborio rice
2 cups tomatillo sauce (from a jar, or using recipe here)
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
4 scallions, sliced
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
Generous amount of chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small Dutch oven or another pot, over medium heat, sautee the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon crisps. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and reserve.

You will need about 1 Tbsp fat for the next step. If the bacon wasn’t very fatty, as the bacon from that I used Chestnut Farms was not, add some vegetable oil. If there is a lot of fat, remove the extra from the pan.

Saute the rice for about 5 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Stir in the tomatilla sauce, and let it cook for about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, and scallions. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir again, cover, and turn off the heat.

Place the pot in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven (keep it on), and arrange the shrimp on top of the rice. Cover and return the pot to the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the shrimp cooks through.

Sprinkle bacon and cilantro over the shrimp, toss everything together with a fork, and serve.

Margaritas
Makes 2-4 (depending on the size of the glasses)

3 oz tequila (Jose Cuervo Gold)
1½ oz Triple Sec
1 6-oz can frozen limeade concentrate
3 cups crushed ice

In a blender, add all the ingredients in the order listed. Turn the blender on high, and puree until the margaritas are smooth and slushy.

If you want, rub the rim of the glasses with a cut lime, then dip the rims in a plate of kosher salt.

Fill glasses and enjoy.