I’ve often wondered why certain potato dishes were described as ‘parmentier’, but it was only today when I was posting a recipe for Parmentier de boudin noir on my Food from the Mediterranean blog, that I decided to try to find out. At a time when potatoes were grown only as animal food in France, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), discovered when he was imprisoned in Prussia during the Seven Years’ War that it was possible to eat potatoes – in the absence of much else, I suppose. When he returned to France, while studying nutritional chemistry, he began a campaign to promote the potato as a nutritious food. The legal ban on growing potatoes (partly because it was thought to cause leprosy) was repealed and Parmentier popularised the vegetable by serving it to, among others, Benjamin Franklin. Hachis parmentier – mashed potato with meat – is one of the dishes named in his honour.
We were inspired to re-create a dish we had as a first course for supper one night recently at the Bar L’Escampette – the idea of mixing apple with the potato came from there, as did the idea of using boudin noir. The version there was a bit more sophisticated than ours since the parmentier had been moulded into individual portions on the plate rather than served from the oven dish at the table. I think ours was worthy of the original inspiration, with the addition of a persillade of chopped garlic and parsley.