02 December 2012

Hachis parmentier piémontais

The dish called hachis parmentier in France is named after the man who, 200 years ago, popularized the potato here as food for people — and not just as feed for farm animals. Hachis parmentier is what we call shepherd's pie (made with mutton or lamb) or cottage pie (made with beef) in English. It's a layer of meat hash covered with a layer of mashed potato and then baked in the oven.

A layer of lamb hash in the bottom of a baking dish, with polenta
spread over the top before it gets baked in the oven

So what I made yesterday for lunch can't be named after Mr. Parmentier. I made it with cooked polenta instead of mashed potato. Polenta is what we would call "yellow grits" in the U.S. South, and you could also make this with white hominy grits. Since polenta comes from northern Italy, I'll call this hachis piémontais. (I made up that name.) I made this with lamb.

A hash of chopped up leftover lamb, onions, chard ribs, lardons,
mushrooms, dried tomatoes, herbs, and spices

Hachis parmentier or piémontais is definitely comfort food for cold winter days, and it's at least in part an example of what in France is called l'art d'accommoder les restes — making the best possible use of leftovers. Recipes for hachis parmentier often call for using leftover roast beef or pot roast to make the hash, along with onions, garlic, herbs, and other flavor ingredients. In fact, you can use any meat: leftover roast chicken, confit de canard, lamb of course, or turkey. I can imagine a very nice hachis with vegetables only — carrots, celery, turnips, rutabagas, etc. — and no meat at all.

I had more than a pound of diced up lamb, and I cooked 1½ cups of polenta in 6 cups of water. Most all the polenta or grits you can find these days is of the quick-cooking variety and takes only five or six minutes to make. Pour the polenta slowly into boiling salted water (or stock), stirring constantly. Turn the heat down, cover the pot, and let it bubble a low temperature until you like the texture. You can enrich the polenta by beating in a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil at the end of the cooking time.

The hash is all cooked, and so is the polenta. Just set the dish in a hot oven if the ingredients are still hot, and let it brown a little on top. If you've let the ingredients cool down before baking, put it in the oven at a lower temperature so that the dish can have time to heat through before the top gets too brown. Let it cool a little after it comes out of the oven, and spoon it out of the dish.

All you need with the hachis piémontais is a green salad — or a salad of lettuce and beets, as above.


  1. Once again I read your post before having my breakfast and I'm starving! I'd love to taste that unusual combination. It looks great and I do love lamb.

  2. Agree with CHM that these
    mouth-watering dishes of
    yours (the beef and noodles
    too) are teasers before bkfst.
    Your photography is terrific.

  3. KEN! That just looks so invitingly delicious :)

  4. We had shepherd's pie most Mondays when I was a little girl, having had slow roast shoulder of lamb most Sundays for dinner - which was at lunchtime! My mum would mince the leftover lamb using her Spong mincer, which was clamped to the kitchen table. I was fascinated by that mincer.
    Lamb was cheaper than beef and a lot cheaper than chicken in those days. Chicken was for special occasions, such as Christmas.

    Happy days !!


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