As part of the evening, I decided to serve my interpretation of Tartiflette, a well-loved French dish that marries hot gooey cheese with potatoes to create the food equivalent of a snug woollen jumper and slippers. Perfect for when all is cold, wet and miserable outside, or you’ve done sufficient exercise to merit such a calorific treat. Although one could easily believe that this après-ski staple has all the hall-marks of a French family classic, the recipe was actually created in the 1980s by the ‘Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Reblochon’ as a means to sell more of the key cheesy ingredient, Reblochon.
Reblochon is a small flat creamy cheese from Savoie protected with AOP status. Its rind is washed during the ageing process to create a more complex flavour and develop its beautiful orange rind. The cheese came into existence as a rent dodge for farmers renting land in the region. The farmer would halt the milking process before the cow’s udders were empty so as to pay rent on a smaller quantity of milk (rent would have been proportional to the milk obtained). Later the farmer would use the rest of the milk to make a small cheese. Brilliantly, “reblocher” is the verb for this process.
|Browning the onions in the tasty bacon fat|
In essence, tartiflette is potatoes drenched in a creamy lardon, onion and wine sauce, with Reblochon added to the mix and layered on top. The whole thing is left in the oven or grill to melt and brown the cheese.
Everyone has their own favourite way of preparing this meal. I asked my fellow cheese professionals at the shop for their recipe, they all had their own way of doing it, and they all thought that theirs was the best….
Most of the recipes out there involve presentation in a large sharing dish. Sharing like this is no bad thing, but I wanted to go for something a bit more formal in presentation, so I created this version of the recipe for individual servings in ramekins.
|Ready for some wine and cream...|
One thing that I ought to point out is that the photos here are of a practice run in which I used Reblochon. On the evening, I replaced the Reblochon with Abbaye de Tamié instead which is a rather similar, monk-made cheese that has a much more robust (and fairly pungent) flavour – it’s an amazing cheese and if you’re a fan of Reblochon, well worth looking up.
When you’re making this you may find that you have sauce left over, in which case, grab some bread and mop that savoury goodness up immediately. If you have sliced potatoes left over, you can pan fry them for brilliant sauté potatoes.
|Reblochon disk shortly to be cut in two|
Individual Tartiflettes (serves 4)
1 clove of garlic
2 onions, finely sliced
200g smoked lardons (or streaky bacon)
750g waxy potatoes (skins left on)
A good bottle of white wine, slightly sweet and not too acidic. Preferably Vin de Savoie
100ml of cream
Half a Reblochon or Abbaye de Tamié
- Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.
- Get the potatoes on to steam (or boil) early - they need to be pretty much cooked through when you put the dish together so it makes sense to get them going ASAP.
- Slowly heat smoked lardons (or streaky bacon cut into small pieces) in a dry pan to render out the fat, cook until starting to crisp and then add the sliced onion.
- Soften the onion over a low heat until it tastes sweet and has started to brown. Take your time and don’t rush or you’ll end up with a nasty burnt onion taste. This stage is going to take up to 15 minutes with a bit of occasional stirring. If the pan is too dry, feel free to add some butter.
- Once the onions are sweet and brown and very tasty, pour a decent sized glass of wine into the pan and stir, cooking off the alcohol, then add the cream and turn the heat right down.
- Take your cheese and use a biscuit cutter to cut neat circles out of it and then cut each of these in half to leave disks with rind on one side. Roughly chop the rest of the cheese and stir it through the now rich and sticky sauce. Test the sauce for seasoning and acidity - you may need to add more wine if it tastes a bit flat.
- The potatoes should be just about cooked by now, and if they aren’t it isn’t the end of the world as they’re going to get some oven time. Drain them and let them cool a little, then slice them into ~4 mm disks.
- You’re now ready to prepare the tartiflette! Kick things off by rubbing your ramekins with a garlic clove that has been cut in half.
- Now start layering. Begin with a spoonful of the sauce then add a layer of potatoes, repeat until the ramekin is nearly full with a sauce layer on top. Now add your disk of cheese and place the ramekins in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The filling will still be hot so it’s just a question of melting and browning the cheese. Keep checking to make sure that the top isn’t burning though.
- Serve to your guests (or eat them all yourself).