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Today: Tom shares a meat and potatoes casserole worth making from scratch.
It is not generally in my nature to go out of my way to make a shepherd's pie from scratch. Instead of cooking all the individual components -- breaking them down only to put them back together -- it always seems like a job best done by leftovers. I don't mean to pick on shepherd's pie alone -- this goes for most meat and potato casseroles. And while not meat and potatoes, it reminds me of the time I looked at a recipe for turkey tetrazzini and the first step in the instructions was: Roast a turkey.
This isn't to say I've never gone to extended lengths to try something new. When I first started cooking and I was eager to try new dishes, I would and regularly did. But somewhere along the line I lost the energy for this kind of pursuit.
So you can imagine my surprise when I started making this dish from scratch. But there's a reason. Simply put, it stood out from other meat and potato pie recipes of its kind. Maybe it does so because it is made with confit. Maybe it's the onions. Maybe it's because the recipe calls for pork. Or maybe it's because it all comes together easily and without much fuss.
What I do know is each piece of this pie is important to the whole. It is what makes this Parmentier elegant and complex. It is why it is so important to build from scratch. And when I really think about it, this is why it is a joy -- not a bother -- to cook. But most importantly, it is why it is a real pleasure to eat.
Confit of Pork Parmentier
Serves 6 to 8
2 1/2 pounds whole pork loin
2 yellow onions, julienned (about a cup)
5 garlic cloves, whole with skins removed
6 thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Canola oil, peanut oil, or lard
Reserved onions and garlic from confit oil
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 pounds Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup half and half
Photos by Tom Hirschfeld