One of the reservations I made right after booking our flight to Paris last winter was for Champeaux, a new-ish brasserie from Alain Ducasse in the revamped Les Halles market. When we got there two months later, the restaurant was gorgeous. Sprawling, with floor to ceiling windows, a wrap-around marble bar, and these sexy, black leather booths with Mad Men-era chairs opposite them.
As we walked inside from the freezing cold, we were greeted by a friendly host, who quickly offered to converse in English. “No way, Jose,” I thought – I was fresh out of a French class at Fiaf and jokingly announced, “Non, merci. Je dois pratiquer!” (“I must practice.”)
You see, Paris makes me nervous. I get super self-conscious that everyone walking down the street will know I don’t belong, that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb and everyone will point and laugh. Yet I still love it and insist on going back! Clearly, I’m a masochist. (Also, spoiler alert: no one cares.)
Anyway, the restaurant had this incredible wait staff, who floated about unnoticeably, taking and delivering orders with the utmost grace. Our waitress in particular, was a sight for sore eyes. Petite, with short black hair tied back in a messy low bun, dark eyes and Parisienne red lips, the back of her uniform white blouse revealing a black lace bra. She was so quintessentially French and I fell in love with her immediately – in that unique way only straight women can with each other.
I don’t know if it was this lady-crush that made me pay extra attention, or the fact that she spoke crystal-clear textbook French, but I understood every word she said (I mean the specials and everything!) and did not have to use any English the whole time in the restaurant. I’m not gonna front – when we walked out, I was really proud of this milestone accomplishment (although, a part of me was still a little self-conscious – my inner Woody Allen will never die…)
Aside from our Pinterest-worthy waitress (let’s just call her Brigitte), the details of the meal are a bit fuzzy. But I do remember my main course – Hachis Parmertier with duck (French shepherd’s pie). It consisted of saucy shredded duck meat with a thick layer of creamy potato puree on top, baked together in a mini cast iron skillet. It was warm, hearty and satisfying, exactly the kind of comfort you need on a wintery Paris night.
Now that we’ve started having weekend guests in from the city, I’ve gotten into the habit of making braises as a “Welcome to Syracuse” dinner for friends and family. So far we’ve had beer-braised chicken and boeuf bourguignon (my favorite). Several hour-long meaty braises just have that celebratory quality to them. And while they are deeply satisfying in an almost primal way, I’ve been thinking about how to replace them with an equally good yet lighter, plant-based alternative. Alas, I arrived at vegetarian shepherd’s pie, inspired by that Paris evening.
I’m thrilled to partner with Emile Henry for this post. For over 150 years (yep, you read that correctly), they have been supplying the world with the most quintessentially French bakeware – the ceramic equivalent of Brigitte, if you will – like this gorgeous pie dish.
This hearty vegetarian shepherd’s pie features tempeh (my go-to meat substitute), two types of mushrooms and red wine, a similar combination to my vegan Bolognese. It’s as lovely for weeknight dinners as it is for festive weekend gatherings. Serve with a green side salad and plenty of wine.Print
This hearty vegetarian shepherd’s pie features tempeh, mushrooms and red wine. It’s as lovely for weeknight dinners (it can be made in advance!) as it is for festive weekend gatherings. Serve with a green side salad.
- 4 medium white or butter potatoes (about 1 ¼ pounds), peeled and cut into ½” chunks
- Sea salt
- ¼ cup whole milk, warmed
- 2 tablespoons whole milk sour cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- One 8-ounce package of tempeh, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or dried thyme, rosemary, or a mix of both)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely diced
- 2 portobello mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 cup dry red wine (I use Bordeaux)
- ¾ cup mushroom or vegetable stock (low-sodium, if possible)
- Place the potatoes in a medium pot and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Add a teaspoon of salt, close tightly with a lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat down to low and simmer with the lid ajar until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes back to the pot. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the milk, sour cream, and butter and mash again to fully incorporate. Taste and season with salt if needed. Cover and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion with ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tempeh, Herbes de Provence, paprika, pepper, and another ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and cook until the tempeh is starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from the skillet and set aside.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the creminis and portobellos and cook until all the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return the tempeh mixture to the skillet with the mushrooms and add the wine. Simmer for about 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock and simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Turn the heat off, taste, and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Transfer the tempeh-mushroom mixture to a pie pan or 8×8” baking dish. Top with the potatoes spread in an even layer and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is starting to turn lightly golden. Serve hot.
- Calories: 250
Good news for those of you in the north-east: Emile Henry (along with other awesome brands, like Duralex and Mauviel) is hosting a huge warehouse sale later this month in Delaware with prices up to 80% off. Check it out if you want get your Christmas shopping done early – details here.