I’ve been going skiing in Haute Savoie since I was twelve. Initially with my family, later with friends, and this year – somewhat greedily – first with friends, and then with family.
Spending a (fairly boisterous) week together has been a lucky and indulgent way for us to keep in touch with friends who don’t live around the corner anymore. This year the children very nearly outnumbered the adults and there was no late night dancing, but it was, as always, a culinary treat.
Before going I was pretty sure I would want to write about raclette, which in these mountains is not prepared 1980s-suburban-dinner-party-style on little individual pans, but, rather, an entire half raclette cheese is mounted onto a simple heating device, melted, and scraped directly onto boiled potatoes, to be eaten, delectably, with cornichons, cured meat, and frisée or escarole salad.
But I am not going to write about raclette. We did eat raclette – no skiing holiday would be quite right without it – but by the time friends left and I had time to take a few pictures, spring had attacked with such full force that the idea of raclette receded too far back into winter to be summoned up again. Until next year.
Not so with reblochon, and tartiflette.
Reblochon is a typical round, creamy, raw-milk cheese from Haute Savoie protected by an AOC.* As the story goes, reblochon dates back to the 13th century. At the time, peasant dues to land owners were calculated according to the amount of milk produced in one day, so ingeniously, on inspection days, cows were not fully milked. A fraudulent second milking produced less abundant but creamier milk ideally suited to the production of cheese. The name reblochon apparently comes from the local dialect “re-blocher,” which means “to pinch a cow’s teats a second time.”**
Reblochon is delicious as is, a cheese plate in itself, but it is also decadent as tartiflette, another variation on cheese and potatoes, Savoie-style. Thomas and Valerie H are the masters of tartiflette. Every year they prepare the dish – or rather dishes, to accommodate 13 adults and 13 children, dietary needs, and picky eaters. I defer the recipe to them.
*Appellation d’origine contrôlée : A French certification that strictly regulates the geographic origin and production methods of certain foods
**Story loosely translated from www.reblochon.fr
Recipe edited and approved by Thomas and Valerie H
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel the potatoes, add them to the boiling water (whole or cut in half depending on the size – ideally all the pieces should have approximately the same size so that they cook evenly). Cook until just soft but still al dente. Drain and let the potatoes rest until cool enough to handle.
Cut the bacon into small strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) wide. Fry the bacon over medium to high heat in a large skillet. Remove, set aside, and drain excess fat, leaving some in the skillet.
Finely cut the shallots, add to the skillet, and cook in bacon fat until golden. Line an ovenproof dish (large enough to hold two reblochon halves) with a layer of half of the shallots.
Cut the potatoes into slices about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick. Place them on top of the bed of shallots. Add the other half of the shallots, the bacon, and spread evenly over the potatoes.
Slice the reblochon(s) in two horizontally and place it, rind side up, on the potatoes. Cut the sliced reblochon in further pieces to fill in the corners and sides of the skillet, so that the potatoes are completely covered with reblochen. No additional seasoning is required, the bacon, shallots, and the reblochon provide for everything.
Slip into the oven and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbling on the sides. Take out and let rest for about 10 minutes until the melted cheese cools down and begins to solidify slightly (If served too early, the tartiflette will be too liquid).
Serve with a large winter salad such as frisée or escarole. And white wine from Haute Savoie.