I LOVE casseroles! Surprisingly, I didn’t discover them until I became a college student and cooked in my dorm with other people and the wide variety of home cooking recipes that we shared. I’m excluding all forms of baked pasta from the category of casseroles as my half-Italian mother was a master of lasagna and baked mac-and-cheese.
As I learned many years later, when asking why she didn’t make casseroles, there were two reasons, one from each of my parents. The first was that my father did not like leftovers. Casseroles being a creative way to reuse leftovers, he was onto that game. The second was that my mother didn’t like her food mixed together. Most of my childhood meals are what I call “three position dinners”: meat, starch, and vegetable, arranged separately on the plate. I had no idea that this was my mother’s preferred way of interacting with her dinner.
I love my food mixed together. One reason is probably because I don’t like to eat that much meat. With it mixed with vegetables and other ingredients, I like to think it’s less noticeable to other people eating what I cook.
Pot pies are a favorite. Good in any cooler weather season, a pot pie is my favorite vehicle for post-Thanksgiving leftovers. The turkey, vegetables, and gravy all get a second life. I’ve always topped a pot pie with pastry or biscuits. In this French version, Chicken Pot Parmentier, a dressed-up pot pie filling is topped with smooth mashed potatoes. It’s kind of like a potpie-Shepherd’s pie mashup, but the filling can’t disguise its Francophile leanings: a dash of wine, a handful of chopped tarragon, miniature onions.
As any casserole requires, I tweaked the ingredients to work with what has on-hand. I didn’t have an open bottle of wine, so used sherry. I had leftover turkey breast, so used that instead of chicken. I couldn’t find pearl onions at the grocery store but used cute little Cippolini onions that they did have. I also quartered them because they seemed too big relative to the diced carrots and celery.
There were a few standout takeaways from the recipe. First, simmering the vegetables in the broth to be used for the velouté sauce was a genius nod to simplicity. I also loved the flavor the wine added to the sauce. The egg yolk added to the mashed potatoes added extra structure that worked well.
This week we weren’t eating many meals at home, so I made only one-third of the recipe (always divide by the eggs) and made two individually-sized Chicken Pot Parmentiers. They were adorable and just the right serving size for each of us. No leftovers from the leftovers!
I’d definitely make this again, full-size or maybe divided into more individual servings, depending on my mood. Chicken Pot Pie amped up a notch or two into French comfort food. This is a winning recipe.
Want to make this yourself? You can find the recipe on page 166 of David Leibovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Want to know how other renditions turned out? Follow the links of my fellow home cooks from Cook the Book Fridays here.
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.
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.