Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What to Do With 'Les Restes'?

In France, frugality is well appreciated in the kitchen, and there are traditional ways of handling leftovers, or les restes*Hachis Parmentier* is such a dish.  Any extra meat from a roasted joint can be used, but because I recently pot roasted a leg of lamb and because we both love the British dish, Shepherd's pie, minced lamb then it will be.

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier revolutionised the eating habits of the French by cleverly convincing them that potatoes were a palatable comestible though at that time it was considered as food fit for hogs:

...surrounding his potato patch at Sablons with armed guards to suggest valuable goods — then instructed them to accept any and all bribes from civilians and withdrawing them at night so the greedy crowd could "steal" the potatoes.

Parmentier simply means topped with browned mashed potatoes.  The only differences I can see between Hachis Parmentier and Shepherd's Pie are different flavourings, and for the meatier Parmentier, the mashed potatoes often get sprinkled with bread crumbs while vegetables like carrots and peas stretch out the meat in Shepherd's Pie.  My recipe is a cross between the two approaches.

With the remaining leftovers of the pot-roasted leg of lamb which consisted of some meaty bones, I made Scotch Broth.

Oven casseroles and hearty soups with their comforting warmth and appetising fragrance lend a cosy, satisfying feel to any homeChez nous, Dayo contributes to this sentiment by snuggling contentedly into an exceedingly fluffy duvet.

These are both easy and simple dishes to make, but also nourishing and very tasty.  For the Shepherd's Pie, the first thing to do of course is to peel potatoes and then cut them into quarters.  A medium-large tater suffices for each serving plus add another one for the baking pan. 

That's my new ceramic knife in the below photo--beautiful and what a slicer!  It's an inexpensive brand, and I was apprehensive per my research that it would chip easily.  So far I have only used it for what it is made for, which is slicing. After a month of careful use, still no chips.  I had no idea how tiring it was using a regular knife for slicing veggies!

Put the potato chunks in a  roomy pot to allow easier mashing/beating and cover them with water. Put the lid on and bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and cook until tender, around 15-20 minutes--a tip of a sharp knife should slide easily right into the centre.  While they are boiling, start on the lamb filling (see below).  Drain the taters and on low heat, shake the pot for about a minute to dry them out.

While maintaining the low heat, add a tablespoon or two of butter and mash the potatoes well.  I recommend the type of masher below because it actually rices the potatoes right in the pot.

Season to taste with salt/freshly ground black pepper and add more butter if that is your wont.  The topping needs to be stiffer than regular mashed potatoes so only add some milk if your potatoes are very mealy and dry.  What I do in that case and also when making regular mashed potatoes, is to push the potatoes aside in the pot and pour in some milk--raising the heat and tipping the pan so only the milk heats.  It saves a pot that way as milk needs to be warm so as not to make lumps.  I lower the heat and finish off by beating with a wooden spoon or a large balloon whisk to get a smooth, creamy mass.  Turn off the heat.

To make the lamb filling, chop finely the leftover lamb.  A cup of lamb makes a serving.

In a pan, add the chopped lamb, about a quarter of a cup of left-over lamb pot roast gravy for each serving, a smashed, fat garlic clove, and a large spring of rosemary. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/205 degrees C.  Gently simmer covered for about ten minutes so the mixture can thicken slightly.  But be careful not to make the lamb stringy by cooking for too longAdd salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Fish out the garlic cloves and rosemary.  Put the filling in a suitable-sized oven dish and start spooning the mashed potatoes around the edges first. 

Using a fork, 'knit' the spoonfuls of mashed potatoes together.

Make a pattern using the fork.  I mark striations in one direction followed by ones made at right angles, and then ones made on the diagonal, ending with a run of the fork all around the edges to seal in the filling.  The goal is to rough up the surface to encourage a nice, golden-brown crust.  For a fancier effect the potatoes can be decoratively piped onto the filling.  Dot with butter to increase browning.

Bake for about thirty minutes until the top is golden brown and crusty.  The casserole could be placed under the broiler to increase its crustiness.  This dish is comfort food at its most basic.  If the filling is on the liquid side, wait about five minutes before serving.

For the Scotch Broth, you need just a few ingredients: 1/2 cup of barley, a chopped medium onion, two chopped carrots, a chopped stalk of celery or lovage, and of course the left-over meaty bones--when carving the original roast, I leave about at least a couple of servings on the bone.  These amounts make about four servings.

Place the lamb bones along with the barley in a soup pot, add about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water, just enough to cover the bones and simmer with the lid on for about 90 minutes until the barley is tender.  Remove the bones and separate the lamb from it.  Cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces and reserve.  Skim off any scum from the surface of the soup.  Saute the chopped onions, carrots and celery/lovage in some butter in a skillet for ten minutes.  This step causes the carrots to release some colour into the butter which is a truly important cosmetic touch as the finished soup will then have a golden glow instead of resembling dishwater.

Add the veggies to the soup and cook another ten minutes until they are tender.  Add the chopped lamb and heat gently for a minute or two.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  It's a lovely soup--glistening with a hint of gold and soothing with a touch of silky milkiness.

The weather has been mostly unseasonably warm this January except for a snow flurry or two.  The garden therefore thinks it's time to bud and sprout and flower.

Roses needed to be pruned YESTERDAY!

It's looking that there will be daffodils by early February!

The gold-dusted Aucuba putting out its first growth for the new season

The warm weather prevented the perennial geraniums from dying to the ground

With the winter carrots, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts completely harvested, there is only leeks left to provide fresh veggies.

A good part of the leek is buried so as to blanch its succulent bottom part.

There is still a lot of onions and garlic in the cellier along with some frozen fruits and veggies like peas and strawberries.  But for the most part, the provisions harvested and processed from last season are winding down.  However, the early spring harvest is just around the corner as long as I prepare the beds and put in my nursery order. Then another active, sometimes frenzied--but always fruitful in some important way--garden year starts!

À la prochaine!


Pot Roast of Lamb

*French Pronunciations: 

À la prochaine