Celebrate Bastille Day With One Of France's Most Underrated Dishes

July 14 is Bastille Day, the French holiday that commemorates the day the revolutionaries stormed the Parisian fortress. And, while bread played a significant role in the French Revolution and baguettes are almost synonymous with the French, you might want to dive deeper into French cuisine while celebrating. One easy and oft overlooked dish is Hachis Parmentier. 

Hachis Parmentier comes from the French word "hachis," which refers to finely chopped food, and Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, an 18th century French nutritionist and pharmacist who championed the potato as a staple food source (per Curious Cuisiniere). According to Atlas Obscura, one attempt involved hiring guards for his urban potato farm. The idea was that such surveillance would rouse curiosity; The trick was that the guards were paid to not notice when someone inevitably succumbed to the desire to steal potatoes, that way, the tuber would develop fame more organically.

In essence, it's a French Shepherd's or Cottage Pie, i.e. a meat dish covered with a layer of mashed potatoes. The difference, Curious Cusiniere explains, is that Shepherd's Pie has ground meat while Hachis Parmentier has finely chopped or minced meat. In practice, however, the difference is often treated as semantic.

How to make Hachis Parmentier

Like Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie, Hachis Parmentier is rather easy to make. Basically, you need to make a beef stew and some mashed potatoes. How you do that can vary.

Epicurious, for example, suggests a maximalist approach. You would need carrots, garlic, ground beef, an onion, a leek, green beans, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. And that's just for the stew. For the mashed potatoes, they recommend cream, milk, butter, nutmeg, and grated cheese to cover it — and potatoes, of course. On the other hand, June Darville offers a relatively restrained approach with onion, garlic, butter, bay leaves, tomato paste, parsley and some white wine for the meat while the potatoes just need seasoning, milk, and cheese.

Despite the different ingredients you can use, the recipes themselves rarely differ that much. Submerge the potatoes in boiling water. While they boil, prepare the beef stew, usually by starting with the onions and garlic frying in butter and then cooking the other ingredients. By that point, the potatoes should be ready for mashing. After doing so, take a casserole dish, fill the bottom with the stew and layer the mashed potatoes on top. The dish should cook at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 35 minutes, per Epicurious. The real sign is that the top is beginning to brown.

Voila! Now you can celebrate the fall of the French monarchy.