Mashed Potato Casserole - French Style Comfort Food

In France, this mashed potato casserole gets the fancy name of Hachis Parmentier. It's a quick and easy dinner to prepare, yet still very typically French. And since it's French, it comes with a wonderful story that you can entertain your family with at the dinner table.

Introducing Monsieur Parmentier

Antoine Parmentier was a Frenchman that lived during the 18th and early 19th century. A pharmacist by training, he spent many years serving in the Seven Year War, and was imprisoned in Germany. It was during this incarceration that he discovered the nutritional virtues of the potato. (The tuber had previously been brought to Europe from South America, but had spent several hundred years languishing in the vegetable garden, disdained by the people and even prohibited by the government.) When he returned from the war, it was to a nation that was starving.

It was Parmentier who saw in the humble potato the solution to France's hunger problems. Through a long and genius marketing campaign, Parmentier single handedly changed the French peoples' ideas about the potato, turning it into a significant food source for the starving population. Parmentier courted the French king, Louis XVI, in his efforts and even got the wife of the king, Marie Antoinette, to wear potato flowers in her hair. Parmentier was a brilliant scientist who spent his life working to improve the food quality of his nation and it is most appropriate that his name is synonymous with potatoes in French cooking.

Onto the Mashed Potato Casserole Recipe

For this recipe I recommend you use instant mashed potatoes, because that's what makes mashed potato casserole so quick and easy to prepare. Do use a high quality instant mashed potato however -- all it should have in it is potatoes. Read your labels.

The recipe here is for a fairly typical French version of Hachis Parmentier, but feel free to change the vegetables, seasoning, and even the meat in this recipe. Hachis Parmentier is extremely versatile.

Mashed Potato Casserole

2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence or other herbs
salt and pepper (to your taste)
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
4 - 5 cups mashed potatoes (instant is fine)
3/4 cup grated cheese (gruyère, emmental, or swiss)

In a large frying pan, cook the onions and garlic in the butter and olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ground beef, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned thoroughly. Turn off heat and add egg yolk and Parmesan cheese, stirring to mix completely.

Spread the meat in the bottom of an lightly oiled oven proof dish (a 13 X 9 inch Pyrex dish would be perfect for the amount given in this recipe). Spread the potatoes on top of this and finish by sprinkling grated cheese on top.

Brown in 400° F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

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About The Author, Kim Steele
Do you love French food and culture? Subscribe to La Marmite and receive monthly recipes, cultural tidbits, and tips for entertaining in a French style. La Marmite is written by Kim Steele, creator of Easy French Food, dedicated to helping you add a French touch to your table and home. Learn more here: http://www.easy-french-food.com/la-marmite.html