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The French cheese dish Tartiflette dates back only to the 1980’s when it was developed to help promote the popularity of Reblochon–a cheese from the Alps region of Haute Savoie from which Tartiflette is made.

Tartiflette may be relatively new, but Reblochon dates back to the 13th century and a tax evasion practised by mountain farmers who had to pay landowners for grazing rights.  Since the tax was calculated according to the daily quantity of milk his cows produced, the farmer ‘held back’ a portion of milk at the official milking which he then took for himself in a second private milking after the Collector left.  The second milking was rich in cream and made the good cheese Reblochon.

In the United States, real Reblochon is unavailable because the FDA made its import illegal in 2005.  A substitute, ‘Fromage de Savoie’, is sold in the States and may even be called ‘Reblochon’.  It is not the real McCoy because it is aged longer than true Reblochon and therefore not as soft.  ‘Le Delice du Jura’ is a soft-ripened cheese made of the same milk as Reblochon–only pasteurized–and is recommended by experienced cheese lovers as a substitute…and Tartiflette is a dish good enough to merit searching out a way to get around the ban on the real thing. 

The real thing is available in many other countries, however, and if you live in one of them, an excellent use for true Reblochon is in this combination with cream, white wine, bacon, and potatoes that is called:  Tartiflette.

Tartiflette (for 6 people)

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of thin-skinned potatoes:  new potatoes, for example, or any good boiling potato, washed and left unpeeled
  • 6 ounces of thick-sliced bacon cut into little cubes or a package of ‘lardons’ (about 200 grams in weight)
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large-ish onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 6 Tablespoons of heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a small round of Reblochon (about 1 pound):  only half of the round is used for this Recipe (or about 7 – 8 ounces of it)
  • an Optional garnish (described below) is Sauteed Apple Slices and Sage for which you will need 2 apples, some butter and a few fresh or dried sage leaves
  • an Optional accompaniment:  Cornichons and Tiny Pickled Onions

Equipment:

  • an oven-proof casserole, buttered
  • a pot for boiling the potatoes
  • a bowl of ice water for briefly cooling the potatoes
  • a cotton dish towel
  • a frying pan
  • a slotted spoon
  • a medium-sized strainer
  • aluminum foil
  • an optional serving suggestion (described below):  6 individual gratin dishes, buttered

I.  Reblochon:  a brief preliminary, descriptive biography

1.  Reblochon has an orange-ish yellow rind because it is washed with whey from time to time as it ages in the cellar:

2.  It has a soft center:

3.  In 1958, Reblochon received the ‘AOC’  title.  This means that a special group in the French Ministry of Agriculture guarantees that it is produced in a “consistent and traditional manner from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas”  The maker can’t put the AOC label on his cheese if it doesn’t conform to AOC standards.  The label in the photo (‘AOP’) is the European Union’s version of the old French national ‘AOC’ and is gradually replacing it:

4.  Reblochen is made from raw milk (‘lait cru’):

II.  How to make Tartiflette

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2.  Put the potatoes in the pot, fill it with water, and boil the potatoes just until they are tender.  (About 15 minutes for small potatoes and 20 for larger ones is a reasonable estimate.  When a potato is done, a skewer will just pierce through it without breaking it.)

3.  Drain the potatoes and briefly put them in ice water to stop their cooking:

4.  Drain them again right away and spread them on a cotton dish towel to dry for a minute or two.  Peel them–or not–it makes no difference with thin-skinned potatoes.  Cut them into small-ish cubes:

5.  Melt the butter in the frying pan, add the bacon cubes or lardons and fry them until they are crisp and golden.  Remove them from the fat and reserve them:

6.  Add the chopped onion to the rendered bacon fat and butter and fry the onion until it begins to turn a shade of gold.  Remove the chopped onion from the pan to a strainer and press on it with a spoon to remove as much of the fat as possible…

… then set it aside:

7.  Wipe out excess fat from the pan with a paper towel, return the bacon and onions to it and add the wine.  Cook, stirring over medium heat until the wine is almost evaporated.

8.  Add the potatoes and cook for a minute more, stirring until everything is well combined.

9.  Add the cream…

…and several grindings of salt and black pepper:

10. Butter the casserole and pour the mixture into it:

11. Cut the round of cheese down the middle into two halves.  (Put away one of the halves for another day.)  Cut through the other half horizontally to make two half-circles:

12. Score the rinds of both halves all over:

13. Place the half-circles, rind-up, on top of the potato mixture:

14. Seal the casserole with an aluminum foil cover and bake the Tartiflette for 1 hour.

15. Take the Tartiflette out of the oven, remove the foil…

…and stir the melted chesse (and its crust) into the potatoes: 

16. Turn on the oven broiler and either put the casserole back into the oven for a few minutes to brown the top of the Tartiflette, or divide the Tartiflette among  individual gratin dishes and place them under the broiler until the cheese mixture turns golden on top.

An optional garnish is:

Sauteed Apple Slices with Sage

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • a few leaves of fresh sage, coarsely chopped or a couple of teaspoons of whole dried sage leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of water

1.  Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the apples and water and sage.

2.  Cook the apples over medium heat, tossing them about with a spatula occasionally, until they brown and the water evaporates.:

3.  Place a few slices of apple and a sage leaf or two on each serving:

A Note:  Tartiflette is the Main Course of the Lunch Menu:  Lunch on a Winter’s DayAnother site, reblochonfermier.com, has several other recipes for using the second half of your round of Reblochon.

A Second Note:  diplomatickitchen’s recipe for Tartiflette comes from bonjourlafrance.com

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012

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