Today we have winter food for dinner as a kind of preparation for our skiing holidays in the Pyrenees mountains. This dish is, however, from Franch Savoy region (Haute-Savoie, just south of Geneva) and has a more Alpine character.
Since the Middle Ages this relatively isolated and inaccessible region has been producing an excellent cheese called reblochon. How was it born ? Well, it was some kind of "how to avoid paying tax" story. In the XIII and XIV-th centuries Savoy peasants paid a tax according to the amount of milk their herds produced. Crafty folks, however, did not fully milk the cows and when the tax collector was gone they completed their milking. With this high-fat milk farmers made cheese. The name reblochon comes from the French reblocher - "to milk a cow again". The cheese production center is Thônes, a small town in the picturesque Aravis Massif region. As to the taste - the mature cheese has a slightly nutty flavor and intense aroma. Its interior should be smooth and almost molten in the center. Reblochon is relatively soft. Its rind colour varies from creamy white to dark yellow with a delicate mould coating. French classify it as a pâte pressée non-cuite type of cheese (actually in English wikipedia it is called a soft washed-rind cheese which is wrong according to the producer information).
The today's dish doesn't have such a long history as its main ingredient - the reblochon cheese. Due to the wave of interest in Savoy regional cuisine in the 80s of the last century, a tartiflette - reblochon flagship dish - was invented. The inspiration came from an old regional recipe, known as la pela.
Methods of preparation may vary a lot. Everyone has its own way of cutting the cheese. Some cut it in cubes, others cut the cheese in half horizontally and some prefer to remove the rind. Very often it is cut in slices, like I did today.
I got the recipe from my Portuguese friend Celeste but of course I had to modify it a little bit. She has lived in France for many years and sometimes shared with me her great recipes for regional dishes. It is a good idea to serve tartiflette with a big bowl of lettuce salad. You can also put some thinly sliced cold roasted meat and pickles on the table. We liked it very much in the company of sweet and sour onions in balsamic vinegar. Wine is a must. Pour some white wine into the dish while cooking and drink the same white or sip a simple young red along with your meal. So today, please enjoy a simple peasant food from the French mountains. It tastes especially nice after a long day of skiing, cleaning the snow from your front porch or pretty much anything you have to do in a freezing cold weather.
1 kg potatoes, boiled in jackets in salted water
1 tablespoon butter
100 g smoked bacon, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
100 ml dry white wine
100 ml crème fraîche or thick sour cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 / 2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
500 g reblochon cheese*
Preheat the oven to 200ºC . Peel and cut boiled potatoes in thick slices (1.5 cm, about 1/2 inch). Fry bacon in butter, add onion and sauté until softened. Add wine and potatoes. Mix everything well and remove from heat. Add the crème fraîche, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put half of the potato to buttered ovenproof dish. Cut the cheese in a fairly thick slices, put half of them on potatoes, spread the rest of the potato mixture and cover with the remaining cheese. Put into preheated oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes until nicely browned.
* Substitutes for reblochon: gruyère, taleggio, fontina, raclette cheese or perhaps a ripe camembert or munster (every soft and easily melting cheese will do). In Portugal, amanteigado cheese will be great but the best substitute for reblochon is certainly queijo da Serra.