Tartiflette

Tartiflette

Think of the smell of cheap rubber. The kind of smell you might encounter at the shoe section of your local department store. Now think about that same smell, only burnt — as if a fire had just torn through the department store and you were standing in the burnt remains of the shoe section. Got it? Well that is the best way I can describe the smell of Reblochon cheese — the main ingredient of Tartiflette. You may be thinking that I’m doing a bad job of selling this recipe, but bear with me.

As I’ve come to understand, in the cheese world, smell doesn’t equal taste. Take Époisses for example, which according to the New York Times, is “arguably the most deliciously pungent, the most highly regarded and — fairly or unfairly — most infamous raw-milk cheese in France, if not in the whole world”. It smells horrid. It’s been banned from public transport in France and I’ve been banned from leaving it in the fridge at home. But put it in your mouth and the experience changes completely. The smell disappears and you are left with a wonderfully creamy texture with subtle hints of earth and nuts. Reblochon is similar and the change is profound when it’s cooked. You get this uniquely complex flavour and the more familiar it becomes, the more you enjoy it.

Unfortunately for many, this cheese is made with raw milk and can’t be imported into some countries (USA and Australia for example). In the UK you can find it at the supermarket, but it’s quite mild. Go to a cheesemonger for the real deal that is worth the £40/kg price tag. If you must substitute for Reblochon, make it sliced halloumi and grated mozzarella. But know that while delicious, it’s not tartiflette.

Tartiflette is normally made with white potatoes. I like to use a half-half mix of white and sweet potatoes because I enjoy the taste, and it gives a greater range of micronutrients. I also like to cook more potatoes than I’ll need because they’re cheap, and they make an excellent lunch the next day. Just reheat in the microwave, add crème fraîche, salt, pepper, and enjoy.

Varying the quantities used in this dish is fairly forgiving. The factor most likely to ruin it is overcooking. Be careful not to leave the tartiflette in the oven too long, especially if you are browning the cheese under the grill where it can go from brown to black in a matter of seconds. Don’t over boil the potatoes or your dish will turn to mush. Use a timer and check regularly to minimise these risks.

What you serve this with is up to you. It will work well as a side dish to most meats. There is a great opportunity to make a soup here with little extra effort, by using a saucepan and a universal steamer to cook the potatoes. Cook your soup in the saucepan and steam your potatoes on top.

TARTIFLETTE
INGREDIENTS EQUIPMENT

500g potatoes

500g sweet potatoes

5 rashers bacon

2 medium brown onions

1 wheel of Reblochon cheese, or both 1 cup mozzarella/tasty cheese (grated) and 1 block halloumi

3 tablespoons crème fraîche (optional)

Salt & Pepper

Knife & chopping board

Saucepan

Large frying pan

Casserole dish (if frying pan is not oven proof)

Vegetable peeler

Oven at 200ºC

METHOD

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.1 Set oven to 200ºC. Peel, then dice to 1”cubes: 2-3 large white potatoes & 1 med sweet potato.2  Add potatoes to the boiling water.  Simmer until just soft.Drain, and set aside.

Roughly dice 2 medium brown onions, and 5 rashers of bacon.4 Chop the Reblochon cheese into roughly 1 inch pieces,5 or slice the halloumi to <1cm thick slices and set aside.6 In extra virgin olive oil, fry the onion and bacon over high heat until slightly browned.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cooked and drained potatoes to the onion and bacon.8 Stir through 3 tablespoons of Crème Fraîche, if using.9 Taste, and adjust seasoning. If not using Reblochon cheese, stir through 1 cups of grated mozzarella.

Transfer to a casserole dish, cover with Reblochon or halloumi pieces10, and place in 200C oven. Set timer for 35mins.11

After 35 mins, increase heat until the top looks nicely browned.12

Serve.

 

Notes:

  1. Approximately 1t salt/L water.
  2. Amounts are a rough guide. Aim for white potato and sweet potato in roughly equal proportions, perhaps 500g of each.
  3. “soft” mean easily pierced with a fork. This will take approximately 20 minutes.  Check regularly after 15 minutes as it’s important that the potatoes aren’t too soft. Use a timer.
  4. The exact amount of bacon isn’t important.  Even a little bit adds flavour.  The size of the dice isn’t important either.  Aim for roughly the same size dice as the potatoes.
  5. You may want to scrape the skin of the Reblochon before you chop it if you aren’t used to strong cheeses.  To do this drag the blade of your knife over the skin so that the top white layer comes off as if it was spreadable butter.
  6. As an optional extra step to increase flavour, fry the halloumi slices in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil until brown on one side, before setting aside.
  7. Browning the bacon and onion isn’t imperative, as long as it’s cooked. If you are scaling the recipe, or if your pan is too small, browning the bacon and onion can be a pain.
  8. Ideally, add 2 parts potatoes for every 1 part onion and bacon.  If you have left over potatoes, heat them up the next day and eat them with créme fraîche, S&P.
  9. This amount is approximate.  Adding no crème fraîche still works well.
  10. Halloumi slices should be placed browned side down, as the other side will brown in the oven.
  11. If using halloumi, cook only until it is brown on top. This may take less than 20 minutes.
  12. To get a nice brown colour on top, you can increase the heat by either turning up the oven temperature, moving the tartiflette to a higher shelf, or put it under the grill.  If grilling, check every few minutes, and keep your nostrils open for any hint of burning. Food under a grill goes from brown to black quite quickly as dark colours absorb more UV radiation which is the main method of heat transfer by a grill.

Thanks to Weronika Bachleda Baca for the photographs.

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