Tartiflette – A creamy gratin from The Alps!

Robin BoyleCheese, French, Lunch, Main course, Recipe, Vegetables

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The Savoie and Haute-Savoie are two regions in the east of France. They are on the edge of the Alps, bordering Switzerland and Italy. With a cool alpine climate, Savoyarde food is heavy but delicious, with potatoes, cheese and other dairy items dominating. Some years ago we spent a week at Chamonix. One morning we caught the gondola up the mountain for a long hike, from Plan de L’Aiguille to Montenvers, a cluster of buildings, cafes and bars at the base of several ski lifts. For lunch, in the crisp air but gorgeous sunlight, we had the choice of raclette, fondue or tartiflette.

Tartiflette is often described as a gratin of potato, bacon and cheese. Its key ingredient is Reblochon, a soft rind cheese made in the Savoie. It is relatively expensive and possibly slightly stronger in flavour than Camembert or Brie, which can be substituted in for this recipe.

A Reblochon typically weighs from 450g to 500g, though small ones may be found at around 250g, the typical weight of Australian made soft rind cheeses. In the recipe you can decide whether to use a large or small cheese. The larger, of course, gives a somewhat more amazing result.

You will find various recipes. Here is a link to the traditional version: Traditional Savoyarde dishes. However, we tend to follow the method by Patricia Wells from her book “The French Kitchen Cookbook”.

It is important to make sure the potatoes are cooked enough before compiling the tartiflette, so that they are properly cooked through when finished. Waxy potatoes work best but most types will do. If the potatoes break up somewhat it won’t affect the result too much. Vary the ingredients as you wish – this is a traditional dish, not fine dining.

For the version in our photo we used a double Brie and some shaved Parmesan to top up the flavour. And part way through the cooking we added some chopped spring onion tops.

Tartiflette – Potato, cheese and bacon gratin

Ingredients

(for 8 servings as an entrée or 4 as main)

  • 1 kg of firm, waxy potatoes (scrubbed and peeled)
  • 150g smoked bacon or speck, rind removed, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large onions, peeled, cut into half-moons
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Reblochon cheese 250g or 500g (or substitute Camembert or equivalent)
  • 3 tbsps quality sour cream, double cream or crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsps minced parsley
  • 2 tbsps minced chives or spring onion tops

Preparation

You will need a pie, casserole or baking dish with a volume of 1.5 to 2 litres. Preheat the oven to 200oC.

Steam or microwave the potatoes so that they are properly cooked but not falling apart.

Dry fry the bacon pieces in a pan for several minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to the casserole dish but leave the fat behind in the pan. Rotate the bacon all around the casserole to smear the sides with some of the residual fat to stop the tartiflette from sticking when it is cooked. Add the onions to the pan and fry for several minutes until softened. Return the bacon in the casserole to the frying pan and combine.

Slice the potatoes into rounds thinner than 1cm. Line the base of the casserole dish with half the potatoes. Top with half the bacon-onion mix. Season. Add the remaining potatoes, then the rest of the bacon-onion mix and flatten out the top as best you can. Season.

Cut a large cheese into four wedges. If using two small cheeses, cut them into half moons. Or if one small cheese, cut into four wedges.

Place the cheese on top of the casserole. Drizzle the sour cream around the pieces of cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and chives.

Bake for 25 minutes or so, to brown the top and heat through all the way.

Serve with a green salad or a plate of freshly steamed vegetables (but not potatoes!). It is also delicious cold.

Degree of difficulty: 2/5 (not difficult).