“Can I have two pounds of veal stew?” I asked the stocky man standing behind the counter at the meat department. He did not seem to be in a rush, but I had to be quick to order since Lulu was starting to feel impatient in her stroller. Well, I thought, I would need to cut my shopping trip short. “Encore quelques minutes Lulu, j’ai juste quelques bricoles à acheter ! (Please, a few more minutes Lulu! I only have a few more things to buy,)” I whispered as I drew my head closer to hers.
But it was getting too long for her. So yes. I would not leisurely browse through the aisles of the store in search of new ingredients as I like to do, but instead, I would go to the point. I remembered my dad pointing out to how efficient my grocery shopping trip with him had been when they came to visit in February.
“Ah ben toi, tu ne perds pas de temps !” (you are not wasting time!) he said after we returned to the car. My shopping cart was full and paid for after only a twenty-minute trip.
“Je savais ce que je voulais ! (I knew what I wanted!),” I answered, laughing.
But I must admit that indeed, my shopping trips are following that pattern these days: well timed, so that I can get in and out quickly, and efficiently. It can be a juggle at times.
“Maman va préparer un ragoût de veau au citron et aux légumes printaniers,” (mummy will prepare a veal stew with lemon and spring vegetables) I told Lulu while buckling her tight into her car seat. She stared at me, then at her new Sophie the giraffe toy, and resumed munching on it greedily, like a hungry lioness.
“C’est bon la viande de girafe ?” I said with a smile, before giving her a large kiss on her chubby right cheek.
It was a nice spring day with generous sun and pleasant walking temperatures, and I was looking forward to the casual dinner I was going to cook for two of our friends that night. We would enjoy the veal stew, a side salad and then, to finish our meal, a refreshing verrine as dessert.
But things did not turn out the way I had imagined.
“Guess what!” I told P. when I called him at five pm, ready to start my cooking preps while Lulu was napping.
“They totally screwed up! I went on, quite annoyed.
“This guy at Whole Foods. He did not sell me veal but beef!”
“Oh no,” he exclaimed. “What are you going to do then?”
I did not have much time to rethink the whole menu. In fact, I literally had five minutes.
But surprisingly, a spontaneous idea came to my mind, and I thought about a dish my mum prepared often when I was young, one that made me think differently about beef.
“Well, I think we’ll eat a boeuf aux carottes.”
I remember how I became infatuated with this dish and how at the same time, I never really cared much for the dish itself. In truth, what I was always looking forward to was what my mum would invariably prepare with the leftovers – no surprise since she is also the queen of how to use leftovers. My dad likes to remind us often that “chez nous, on ne jette rien.” (Nothing is wasted at home!)
I’ve learned from them.
A hachis parmentier is the perfect way to accommodate leftovers. Recipes abound but the principle remains the same: use leftovers of any beef stew such as a boeuf aux carottes or a pot-au-feu, and top the meat layer with one of mashed potatoes. Simple and straightforward, it’s a dish that makes a full meal when it is served with a side salad. We love it.
Over the years, I’ve prepared many variations. Sometimes I use beef and at other times, I prefer meats like duck or chicken; sometimes I use potatoes, and at other times sunchokes, sweet potatoes or a blend of different root vegetables.
Both recipes worked like wonders.
We enjoyed dinner with our friends, and the following day, a hachis parmentier between the two of us.
“Do you think it’s my accent that played a trick on me?” I asked P., feeling still somewhat upset about the messed up meat order. I was still having cravings for a veal stew with lemon.
“I don’t care. I would have hachis parmentier any day!” he said, smiling.
I would too, in fact.
Invariably, we ask for more.
- Leftovers of beef stew (mine was a beef stew with carrots (boeuf aux carottes)) (about 10.5 oz)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb + 2 oz potatoes
- 2 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and seeded, then diced
- 1 tablespoon double tomato concentrate
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1/4 cup (+ more if needed) whole milk, warm
- Dash of ground nutmeg
- A few crushed red peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon butter + more to top
- Place the meat in the bowl of a food processor and chop it; set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the shallot and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
- Add the wine and let evaporate. Add the meat, broth from beef stew and sugar, and cook until most of the juice is evaporated. Add the parsley and check the seasoning.
- In the meantime, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes or so, or until they are soft. Use a food mill to puree them. Season with salt and pepper and add the warm milk to reach the texture you like. Add the butter.
- Preheat the oven at 350 F. Butter a large dish (or individual ones) and add a layer of meat. Top with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with nutmeg and red peppercorns. Add a few pieces of butter on top and cook in the oven for 35 minutes before placing under the broil for 5 more minutes. Serve warm with a green salad. Delicious!
- Les restes d’un ragoût de boeuf (j’ai utilisé ceux d’un boeuf aux carottes)) (environ 300 g)
- 1 càs d’huile d’olive
- 500 g de pommes de terre
- 2 tomates, blanchies, pelées et épépinées, puis coupées en dés
- 1 càs de double concentré de tomates
- 1 càc de sucre roux
- 2 càs de vin blanc sec
- 1 càs de persil haché
- 1 échalote, hachée
- 60 ml de lait entier chaud, ou plus selon besoin
- Pincée de muscade
- Quelques baies roses écrasées
- 1 càs de beurre + pour le dessus du hachis
- Mettez les restes de viande dans le bol de votre mixeur et hachez; mettez de côté.
- Faites chauffer 1 càs d’huile d’olive dans une poêle anti-adhésive. Ajoutez l’échalote et faites suer pendant 2 à 3 minutes. Ajoutez ensuite les tomates, le concentré de tomates et faites cuire sur feu modéré pendant environ 5 minutes.
- Ajoutez le vin et laissez évaporer avant d’ajouter la viande, le bouillon du ragoût et le sucre. Faites mijoter à feu doux jusqu’à ce que le jus soit presque évaporé. Ajoutez ensuite le persil et recfitiez l’assaisonement.
- Pendant ce temps, faites cuire les pommes de terre dans de l’eu bouillante salée. (20 minutes environ). Passez les au presse-purée. Assaisonnez de sel et de poivre et ajoutez le lait chaud et le beurre.
- Préchauffez le four à 180 C. Beurrez un plat à gratin et ajoutez une couche de viande. Couvrez de purée de pommes de terre. Ajoutez une pincée de muscade et de baies roses écrasées. Ajoutez quelques noisettes de beurre et faites cuire environ pendant 35 minutes. Passez sous le gril pendant 5 minutes, et servez bien chaud avec une salade verte. Délicieux !