Tartiflette

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Years ago our family was travelling through Eastern France, and we stopped in the beautiful town of Annecy for lunch and a stroll. We were in Annecy-le-Vieux, the old part of town and we randomly chose a restaurant at which to have lunch. Our restaurant was one of the ones on the right side of the canal in the photo below. The canal encircles the ancient prison.
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We sat outside, the sun was out, it was about 70 degrees – we didn’t think it could get much better than this. But we were wrong.

My husband and I chose the local specialty Tartiflette for lunch. Tartiflette is a potato dish baked with a cheese called Reblochon, one of the cheeses of the Savoie province of France which we were in. The Tartiflette was extremely memorable, but Reblochon is now one of my favorite all-time stinky French cheeses.
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Reblochon is a cows’ milk cheese with a washed rind. It smells like, well, you’re in a cow paddy. But cheeses never taste as bad as they smell, do they?


Within the rind, Reblochon is a rich, velvet-like cheese that is perfect as is, served with my fruit and nut bread, or baked into tarts, or with potatoes, like this Tartiflette recipe.

When we got back to the states, I was so thrilled to discover that I could order Reblochon from fromages.com. Fromages.com has a recipe for Tartiflette, as well as an interesting history on Reblochon. (I learned that it’s actually made from a mix of milk from three different cow breeds!)

Then I happened upon a Tartiflette recipe in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. I have to quote him on what he states about Reblochon:

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Here’s more evidence that you can never have too much cheese, bacon, or starch.”

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So here’s the recipe from Mr. Bourdain’s cookbook:
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Tartiflette

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled (I use russet)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into small dice
3/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1 pound Reblochon cheese

EQUIPMENT
large pot
paring knife
strainer
large sauté pan
wooden spoon
round, ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes in the large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with the paring knife. Remove from the heat, drain, and let sit until they are cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into a small dice and set aside.
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In the large sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat and add the onion. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, until golden brown, then add the bacon and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add the potatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
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Remove the mixture from the heat and place half of it in the round, ovenproof dish. Spread half the Reblochon atop the potato mixture.

Cover this with the other half of the potato mixture. Top with the remainder of the cheese.


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Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot.
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As you can tell, I used four ramekins for the tartiflette.

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You can prepare the tartiflette as one large casserole, like this one I made last year, but I wouldn’t make it in a deep dish pan because the cheese to potato ratio is critical!
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Also, when searching online for how tartiflette is presented, because I find it challenging to photograph, I came across other ways to prepare tartiflette. You can place the whole wheel of cheese over the potatoes, or slice it horizontally first.

note: You can make Tartiflette with a different cheese, but please don’t. You’re missing the whole point. This dish really requires this stinky cheese, and you’ll be amazed at how smooth and mild Reblochon is with the potatoes. I personally love the rind, but my husband doesn’t, so I trimmed it.

photo from Annecy

Sweet Potato Gratin

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I wrote a post a couple of years ago when I started this blog, called “Please – No Marshmallows!” Of course, I was referring to the rampant use of marshmallows on sweet potatoes in the U.S. Now, if you love this combination – great! What I have to say will not deter you. But I’ve just never understood putting something so sweet on something sweet. I mean, for god’s sake, they’re called sweet potatoes for a reason. Do you put sugar on a slice of cake?

I remember the first time I had sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It was my second year of college and I wasn’t able to fly home just for Thanksgiving, so I went with a roommate to her parents’ home in Los Angeles. I was so excited about having a “normal” Thanksgiving meal because I’d always been so deprived of traditional dishes.

My mother was a chef in her own right. She’s French, and I think all French people must be fabulous cooks. We never knew how spoiled we were with her cooking. She only used fresh ingredients, and I don’t remember her ever opening a can. We certainly never ever ate fast food.

Being French, however, and the fact that she always disliked turkey, which I think a lot of French people do, she never embraced the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The last Thanksgiving meal I had at her home was duck a l’orange. Okay, it’s good. But I yearned for turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes with those darn marshmallows.

So then I got my chance, in 1974. My friend’s family was very sweet and embraced me like one of their own. In fact, there was no yelling or throwing of pots, which was something else I wasn’t used to.

Then came dinner. Oh my. I guess my taste buds were quite sophisticated at my young age, and hopefully I didn’t show my reaction to the various dishes, but I was horrified. The turkey was dry, the stuffing was stove-top, which is a very popular American boxed brand, and the sweet potatoes were smothered in melted marshmallows. To make things even worse, the pumpkin pie was purchased and came in a litle foil pan. And then cool whip… I can’t go on.

Sweet potatoes are a fabulous vegetable, and to me, they shine with the addition of garlic. And butter and cream. And cheese. They’re also fabulous mashed, but today I’m making them into a gratin. And I’m using Reblochon, one of my favorite stinky cow cheeses.
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There are so many ways to make a potato gratin from scratch, but I’m par-boiling the sweet potato slices in order to speed up the baking process. It’s an extra step, but sometimes it seems like it takes forever for sliced potatoes to bake in cream. And you end up with dish of milky, uncooked potatoes. So I’m just helping their cooking along, and that way less cream is required as well. So here’s what I did.

Sweet Potato and Reblochon Gratin

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
2 ounces butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream
16 ounces Reblochon, or Gruyere, or Fontina
Butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Peel the potatoes and slice them using a mandoline or a food processor.
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Bring pasta pot filled with salted water to a boil on the stove over high heat.

Add the sweet potatoes and cook them for 5 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thinly you sliced them. Mine are approximately 1/8″ thick.
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Remove the potatoes and let them drain in the sink. I prefer to use a pasta pot with the insert, so the slices don’t break apart when they’re poured into a colander. Let them cool.
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In a small pot, melt the butter and add the garlic. Stir for just a few seconds, then pour in the cream.


Reduce the mixture to approximately 1/3 cup.

Slice the cheese however way you can. I kept the cheese chilled to facilitate slicing, but soft cheeses are always a little more challenging.
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Using an appropriately sized oven-proof baking dish, well buttered, place one layer of sweet potatoes into the dish. Add cheese, then continue, alternating sweet potatoes and cheese.

Make sure to season the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper.
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Then carefully pour the cream mixture over the top.


Bake until the cheese has melted and is golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.
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Let the gratin cool slightly and set. It’s easier to slice that way.
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Because of the Reblochon in this gratin, it takes a pretty strong protein like a filet mignon or lamb chop to pair well with this gratin. Tomorrow I’m serving it with ham.
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It will also keep well in the refrigerator, and can be heated in the oven or microwave.
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So try sweet potatoes once without the marshmallows. Only that way you can truly taste their sweet goodness.
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And by the way, I deleted my post called, “Please – No Marshmallows!” I wrote the post before I realized that posts should contain decent photos! Now, white balance is my friend!