Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Parmentier's Potatoes

I have written about the history of potatoes more than a few times.  A few years ago, when I was teaching children how to prepare foods made with products grown in Southern Illinois, we made a map of the route of the potato!  We traced it from Peru to Spain and then through other European countries.  In many of those countries, potatoes were only grown for feed for stock.   In Prussia, King Frederick the Great planted potatoes and staged armed guards around them during the day.  By night, the locals would sneak in and steal the potatoes thinking they were rare and valuable! 


In France, potatoes were grown to feed pigs … that is until a
famous agronomist and pharmacist promoted the potato as food for humans.  Antoine-Augustin Parmentier learned about the potato when he was a prisoner of the Seven Year War and was held in Prussia.  He returned to Paris in 1763 and started his quest to feed hungry people with potatoes.  Finally, in 1772, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible.

Parmentier was my kind of foodie!  He was appointed to teach at the Free School of Bakery and what he taught was that a bread made with potatoes was just as good as wheat bread.  He publicized the potato using stunts that I have to say I would have been happy to try!  He had lavish dinners with guests like Ben Franklin … featuring potatoes!  He gave bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen.  He copied King Frederick’s stunt and grew potatoes   by guards, so the impoverished people would steal the plants at night!

In 1785, potatoes staved off famine in northern France and four years later, Parmentier published the Treatise on the Culture and Use of the Potato which was printed by order of the King.

It is important to note that potatoes were not the only passion of Parmentier!  He studied and published about baking bread, making cheese and storing grain.  He taught people to use cornmeal and chestnut flour.   He used mushrooms, mineral waters and studied wine-making. 


Parmentier died in 1813, but he left quite a legacy, so much so, that his burial plot was surrounded by potato plants and is now surrounded by flowers.  There are streets named after him and a bronze statue of him is located at Montdidier.  Below the statue is a marble relief of seed potatoes being distributed to a peasant.

In the 1870s, chefs began naming foods after him.  A potato and leek soup is named Cream Parmentier.  Salt cod mashed with olive oil and potatoes is called Brandade de morue Parmentier.  There are cubed potatoes fried in butter named Garniture Parmentier … mashed potatoes called Puree Parmentier … and potato salad named Salade Parmentier.

Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite comfort foods.  Some call this dish Cottage Pie and others call in Shepherd’s Pie.  “Hachis Parmentier” may have been the original creation of this deliciously filling dish.




Often times, cooks make Cottage Pie using leftovers and there is nothing wrong with that.  You can even break up a couple pieces of meat loaf to use as the base.  Pot roast, rotisserie chicken, a chunk of pork roast … all work.  You could also make a meatless pie!  Some folks use tomato in their filling for the pie.  It really is your choice and one of the best ones I’ve ever made was with a little leftover grilled salmon, carrots, corn, peas and a creamy sauce … all topped with mashed potatoes with a little extra garlic stirred in.   Use your imagination. 


Cottage Pie  or Hachis Parmentier

FILLING:  I made this recipe using fresh and frozen products.  I chopped a big tomato and kept it ready to add to the stewed ingredients. 

Brown 1 pound of ground beef and a half cup of chopped onion.  Add salt and pepper it generously.

Add 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables and 2 cups of beef stock.  Let the ingredients simmer for a couple minutes, then add the fresh tomato.  Continue to cook the ingredients until the tomatoes disappear into the stock.  Finish seasoning by adding a heaping Tablespoon of tomato paste, a dash of garlic powder and tiny bit of sugar.  Thicken the sauce by adding one more cup of broth (or water) with 2 Tablespoons of corn starch blended in. 

TOPPING:  You will need 4 cups of mashed potatoes to have enough topping for this much filling.  Make the mashed potatoes like you usually do.  Let them cool, so you can drop an egg in and not have it scramble!  Whisk in the egg, salt and pepper and 1 cup of shredded cheese.  For this recipe, I added about a cup of shredded cooked carrots … for flavor and color!

Whip all this together and spread it over the filling.  For additional color, sprinkle paprika and/or parsley over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes until the top of the potatoes brown a little. 

You can make all this the day before and refrigerate it.  Put cold ingredients together  but bake for about 50 – 60 minutes.



I’ve post this as a part of my foodie project for 2021.  Enjoy!

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