Tuesday, February 1, 2011


You need to know about this dish. A speciality of the Savoie region of France (i.e where I am now), it was a popular choice at dinner last night, with five of the seven people around the table choosing it. I swooned a little at the delight of eating it, and did not require anything else food-wise until 2 pm the next day. Yes, I think this blog post can entirely concentrate on the delights of dinner last night.

Le menu
It consists, simply enough, of potato (pommes de terre), cream, cheese and ham. Sometimes onion. All baked in a cast-iron dish and served nicely crispy on top. I know this sounds like a lot of other dishes cooked the world over in different cultures by different cooks - I may even have attempted something similar myself - but whether it was the French cheese used, or all that butter, this particular example of the genre was superlative.

The particular cheese used in Tartiflette is called Reblochon, and here is what Wikibooks has to tell us about it:

Reblochon is a French cheese from Savoie. Reblochon is produced in the valleys of Thônes and Val d'Arly. Reblochon is made from cow's milk. The cheese is a soft paste with a washed crust. Its crust is yellow saffron, covered with fine white foam, which shows it has been matured in a fresh cellar. It is best consumed between May and September after a maturation of between six and eight weeks. It is also excellent from March to December. Reblochon has a hazelnut taste. It is a vital ingredient of tartiflette, a Savoyard gratin with potatoes, cream and pork.
Reblochon cheese was first made in the XIIIth Century, in Savoie, in the Thônes valley. In that time, farmers rented meadows (alpages) from a landowner, and gave a portion of the milk produced as rent. When the rent payment was to be determined, the farmers milked the cows incompletely in order to reduce the apparent production, and thus their rent. Once the landowner had gone, the farmers would then conduct a second milking, which yielded a milk rich in fat. This milk was then preserved by turning it into cheese. The name Reblochon comes from patois, reblocher, which means to milk again.
The happy crowd enjoying their Tartiflette

I thought I'd include all of that quote, as the bit about the cows is quite interesting, don't you think? However, I was less impressed by Wikipedia's claim that Tartiflette is not a traditional Savoie dish, but a 1980s invention of the Reblochon cheese producers to increase the sale of their cheese. But as one web site  put it, what it lacks in regional legitimacy is easily made up for in personality. 

I am also reliably told (by people who have seen it) that Tartiflette is cooked in massive pans and dished out on the piste for hungry skiers who need a warm something to sustain them on the snow.

You might be wanting a recipe. You'll find one here. And this one has lots of photographs of the process.

You will also be wanting a local white wine to cut through all that cheese. May I suggest some Vin de Savoie, perhaps Appellation Apremont? According to Jamie Goode's wine blog, Made from the Jacquere grape, this is a very fresh, light white wine with a delicate minerality – it’s a bit like licking a stone. It’s not excessively fruity, with a touch of lemon, but it’s really nice and pure. I really like it for its subtlety and freshness. 88/100 “

I can’t say that we found it “like licking a stone” (a particularly inventive description of the taste of a wine, in a very crowded field – congratulations Jamie) but we did enjoy it nevertheless. It went excellently with the Tartiflette, which was the important thing, after all.

Bon appétit!

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