Hachis Parmentier

October 22, 2010 § 17 Comments

Hmmmm.  This post is difficult for me.  I have to admit straight away that I grew up with Shepard’s Pie being one of my favorite dishes.  My mother made one weekly and it was delicious.  Given that it has been at least 20 years since I had one of hers, maybe my memory of it is greater than it should be, but I don’t think I am wrong about this one.  One thing I do remember about my mothers was that she would put the mashed potatoes in a piping bag and make big fluffy florets of mashed potatoes that would puff up and turn brown and be slightly crispy and slightly chewy.  That puff of mash would always be my last bite.

I was looking forward to making this dish because I have long been looking for the elusive magical recipe from my childhood.  My mother died about 15 years ago, long enough ago that I wasn’t all that interested in cooking and it didn’t cross my mind to gather any favorite recipes.  So, search I have and as of yet I have not found a Shepard’s Pie that tastes like hers.

Sadly, this recipe won’t be it either.  I chose to go the ‘Bonne Idee’ route as my mother’s was always made with ground beef.  Like with Gerard’s Mustard Tart, I think my disappointment was, in part, because of expectation and memory.  When you have in your mind what a Tart or a Shepard’s pie will taste like, ultimately, when it tastes different, you can’t help but be disappointed.

This would score about a 6 out of 10 in the world of Shepard’s Pie.  There was not enough flavour in the meat and the sauce was not thick enough, nor flavourful enough.  The cheese topping is good but doesn’t add enough taste to merit its addition. I ate mine with the addition of HP sauce, my husband added HP and Worcestershire sauce and my daughter a lot of ketchup.

I’d like to say that next time I would do the following differently:

Add Worcestershire sauce when browning the meat, add more tomato paste and perhaps even make a roux to really create a strong base of sauce for the filling. But saying that, I realize that I won’t make this dish again and rather just continue in my quest for the ultimate Shepard’s Pie recipe.

A note about our wine.  Again, I asked my wine guy at my local market for a suggestion.  He picked a 2008 Bodegas Juan Gil, a Spanish red that goes great with beef.  He recommended it for it’s being sweet and light, something that wouldn’t be too strong along side my pie. I thought it was a great pick.

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§ 17 Responses to Hachis Parmentier

  • I wasn’t all that impressed with this either. Because I especially didn’t like last week’s I thought I should mute my comments when I wrote about it. It’s funny all these people absolutely “loving” dishes that to me are bland and disappointing. Each palate is different and because I’ve made other recipes in the book which HAVE been marvelous, I keep moving on to the next.

    • 147charlbury says:

      I’d be disappointed if no one else ever posted that they didn’t like something. As you said, we all have different tastes and no two dishes are going to turn out the same. I’m really hoping the apple tart next week will be a good one!

  • Pamela says:

    It does stink we don’t get what we were hoping for, especially when it comes to envisioning the results of a new recipe. Happens to me all the time. ;). Keep trying to find that recipe from your
    child hood!

  • Oh yes, the apple cake is yummy. I’ve made it once already and am making it again this coming week using another set of different apples.

  • Not a fan of Shepherd’s Pie at all. Sadly, this one didn’t change my mind, either… FFwD’s all about new things, though, right? 🙂

  • Mary says:

    I totally understand. I think when you have an idea about how things taste in your childhood memory, it is odd or strange to try a different version and have them be different from what you remember. Luckily, I grew up eating canned soup and steak-ums so everything here is new and exciting in my stomach!

  • Ker-Yng says:

    I hope you’ll find your ultimate Shepherd’s Pie soon. The apple cake is good, at least it’s easy and quick to make. 🙂

  • jayne says:

    I’m sorry this one didn’t live up to the one in your memory. That is the hard things with food memories, I think. They are seasoned with emotion, which makes them even harder to reproduce. I sincerely hope you find the recipe you’re looking for.

  • Vicki says:

    I completely understand the memory of food being so strong when a beloved mother made something year after year for her family. It’s funny how the little things can be the biggest thing we miss. And it doesn’t matter how many years go by. I have my mom’s recipe box and yet couldn’t bring myself to bake or cook from it. It’s coming up on nine years. I’m finally trying and though it doesn’t lighten my heart, it is bringing big smiles to her grandchildren and that would make her wonderfully happy.

  • Karen says:

    It is always hard to match a recipe up to a memory. I wish you luck in finding the one!

  • onewetfoot says:

    It’s hard to re-create childhood favourites. I love that you’ve got HP Sauce in the house, though. Is it hard to get in San Francisco?

    • 147charlbury says:

      Nice to see someone else who knows of HP sauce. We used to have a tea shop in my town where we could get it and other ‘British’ specialty items. Now, I just bring it back with me when I go to Canada!

  • I loved it but then I had really never had this dish and had no expectations. Perhaps that is part of it. I notice that lots of the FFWD chefs are tweaking quite a bit to their particular tastes. I did a lot of seasoning along the way and added some demi-glace (which I was lucky enough to have on hand) and I think that made a lot of difference. But seriously, I would not hesitate to register my displeasure with a dish if I am so inclined as I think that is what this project is about. Sharing. I look forward to reading more of your posts!
    Trevor Sis Boom.

    • 147charlbury says:

      I think this is one of the things I struggle with in this whole FFWD thing – do you follow her recipe exactly or follow your own instincts and tweak according to what you think will be good?

  • Fernborough says:

    It took me a while to open up my taste to “be here now”, as Guru Ram Das might have said. I really enjoyed the smell of this. Peggy the Baker made it without pepper, which I think was a loss. When I added pepper, it just bounced off the cheese shell! I also wanted more salt.

    The other thing that we’ve learned about Dorie’s style is that she’s good about putting in only the essential steps. It’s important to do just what she says, because it really does make a difference.

    Chacon a son gout. Be strong! Like what you like, and don’t like what you don’t.

  • Flourchild says:

    Sorry you didn’t love it….I have only made Shep. pie one other time in my life. I liked this one a lot!

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