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French Comfort Food [Secret Life of an Expat]

The weather is finally starting to get cool here, average days in the 40s, which means winter is a-coming. What’s the best part about winter in France? The combination of damp cold and hibernation mode makes it acceptable to eat the many cheese-heavy dishes one would normally only indulge in during a ski trip to the Alps. One of these dishes is called Tartiflette.

If you can find reblochon cheese (this might be hard because it’s a raw cow’s milk cheese, but according to some guy on Chowhound, it’s now packaged as Fromage de Savoie, and other people have talked about buying it at Whole Foods), you can easily make it in the United States. After a cold, snowy morning, by eating this dish you could pretend you’ve just skied the Alps, instead of shoveled out your driveway.

Tartiflette, a main course dish that is essentially a very special potato gratin, was invented by the “Reblochon cheese council” (that’s what we’d call it in the U.S. anyway) in the 1980s, to sell more cheese. What it lacks in history, it makes up for in yumminess.

Here is the recipe for one of the ultimate French comfort foods:


4 pounds of potatoes
8 oz lardons (very thick bacon cut into strips)
2 onions
1 cup white wine
1 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 (450 gram/1 pound) Reblochon or Fromage de Savoie

To start, peel and set your potatoes to boil.

While the potatoes are cooking, fry the lardons (bacon). This is what French lardons look like:Essentially, they are strips of 1/4 inch thick bacon, smoked or not. “Bacon” in France is thin, round slices of smokey meat, and if you want “American bacon” you have to ask the butcher to slice up some poitrine de porc fumée (smoked pork breast), you won’t find it at the supermarket. Lardons are thicker than most thick cut bacon, but I think bacon would work, just don’t make it too crispy.

Once the bacon has cooked a bit, add your onion and cook until soft. Then add the wine, raise the temperature and cook until the wine has evaporated, then add the crème fraiche. Lower temp, add salt and pepper and let it cook a bit. You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

Meanwhile, once your potatoes are cooked, cut them into cubes and put them into a well buttered pan. A 9X13 pan will feed 6-8 people, or you could make smaller versions as I did. This dish freezes well.

Pour the bacon/onion/cream deliciousness over your potatoes. I mixed them in, you don’t have to.

Then you take your reblochon, which you’ve cut into quarters like so:

And put it on top of your potato mixture, rind side up, like so:

Keep in mind the small pans here are very small, I made a few mini-tartiflettes for the kids. In a 9X13″ pan, all 4 pieces of reblochon should fit on top.

With your oven at around 360°, cook for 30 minutes, or until melty and bubbling on the inside. The cheese will basically disappear into the potatoes, and you can eat the rind. To be honest, I have only made this with supermarket reblochon, which was indeed raw and A.O.C., but in past experience I’ve found that the difference in taste and quality between supermarket cheese and fromagerie cheese is enormous. Next time I’m hitting the fromagerie.

Here is my result for a 3-4 person tartiflette:

To be served with the rest of the white wine, a side salad of leafy greens, and a quick vinaigrette (olive oil, cider vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper).

I made it in tiny batches, but it can also be made for hundreds. Here’s a picture of a tartiflette at last year’s local Christmas market. The guy’s recipe is a bit different (sliced potatoes, reblochon rind-side down — blame the Swiss flag) but we still hung around the market for an extra half hour just to wait for this batch to be ready to take some home.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert of the tartiflette, I made some this weekend and thought I would share. The Reblochon de Savoie website gives a simpler recipe, omitting the onions and wine and adding chives, but I’ve always had it this way so this is what I prefer.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it comes out! Or if you know anything about buying reblochon in the U.S. please do share.

Bon appetit!

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