Here’s a cold-weather dish that is both sophisticated and supremely French. Duck parmentier — shredded duck confit topped by puréed potatoes — has turned up on Paris bistro menus recently and I was lucky enough to be served this version in early December. It came surrounded by a parmesan cream sauce and, to quote a friend, it was absolutely divine. After finishing every bite, I asked the bistro owner for the recipe.
Parmentier de canard / Duck parmentier
The bistro in question was Chartier, in Levallois on the western edge of Paris. It’s the kind of place that you long to find but that is increasingly rare — a modern version of the classic bistro style, with an inventive menu that winks at past traditions. The owner, Thomas Chartier, a congenial man, was happy to share his culinary secrets.
Duck parmentier is a spinoff of the classic French dish hachis parmentier, or sautéed ground beef topped by mashed potatoes — the kind of food you might expect to find in school cafeterias, not at a classy joint for adults. Both are named for Antoine-Auguste Parmentier, the 18th century chemist credited with popularizing the potato in France.
In Monsieur Chartier’s version, duck confit is shredded and stirred into what he called a tombée de champignons, or thinly sliced mushrooms (wild and farmed) sautéed with onion until meltingly tender, before being topped by the puréed potatoes. For an extra flourish he adds an unctuous sauce of grated parmesan stirred into heavy cream.
In my version, I omitted the mushrooms for reasons of practicality — it’s not always possible to get hold of wild mushrooms, and without them this dish may be prepared in any season. I think it’s best in winter, though — a sublime comfort food that can be paired with a salad and a hearty bottle of red. If you’d like to add a starter, I’d suggest something light, perhaps smoked salmon, and for dessert possibly an apple or pear tart.
In the months ahead, I plan to bring you more French classics with a modern twist. This blog is now entering its fifth year and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Many thanks to all of you, dear readers. And on that note I’d like to wish you a very happy New Year and…