Tartiflette is like Carcassonne – it’s not quite what it seems.
Carcassonne in southern France has become regarded as one of the best maintained medieval walled fortress towns of France, whereas the truth of the matter is that it was substantially rebuilt during our Victorian age to encourage what we, these days, call tourism, and thus improve the economy of the town and the region.
Picture of carcassonne
Have you seen it? It’s really worth a look. But what has that got to do with…. Well, Tartiflette has become regarded as an ancient peasant dish from the Savoie region. True, it comes from the Savoie region, but it was actually invented as recently as the 1980’s by the Syndicat de Reblochon to sell more Reblochon cheese and keep the workers in employment. Clever ploy, eh?!
Whatever its origin or history, I don’t care – cos it’s gorgeous.
There is no really definitive recipe for Tartiflette, despite its short existence. However, this is the one that I prefer, the one that we have developed/experienced in the south of France near to Narbonne, though I’m sure if you visit the Savoie region it will be a little different. And they’ll probably deny everything I’ve said about its origin! (But they’ll have their fingers crossed behind their backs!)
Prep: 20-ish minutes.
Cooking: 35-ish mins.
Rating: 2: Easy
- 1 kg nice waxy new potatoes; boiled, peeled and thickly sliced
- Whole Reblochon cheese
- 200 g cheap rindless smoked bacon or prepared lardons (for a veggie version, omit the bacon and substitute smoked tofu or one of these veggie bacon rasher type things. You’ll need more than this recipe says for the same amount of spuds.)
- 1 large red onion (I sometimes put a shredded leek in there as well)
- 2 cloves garlic (more if you wish to give it more ‘wellie’!)
- Glass of white wine
- Small tub Crème Fraiche
- 50 g butter
- Frying pan – large
- Ceramic oven dish – also large
- Pepper, salt to taste (but be careful with the salt as you have bacon and cheese)
- Wash the potatoes (don’t peel them) and steam them or cook them à l’anglais – in boiling water. Let them cool a little before starting to handle them.
- Slice the bacon into small strips (lardons will be ready for use) and fry in a little grapeseed, rapeseed, groundnut or sunflower oil and butter until the edges just start to brown. Remove, drain and put aside.
- Peel and finely chop the onion. Fry them in the same pan, in the bacon fat until soft.
- Add the wine, moving it about the pan to get all the sticky, gooey bits off the surface of the pan, and then reduce it down a bit to intensify the flavours.
- Peel and thickly slice the now cooled potatoes, frying them with the onions and wine. Finely chop the garlic and put that in as well – don’t allow the garlic to start to brown or it might impart a bitter taste.
- Chuck in the bacon mixture. Ensure that the bacon fat and wine mixture becomes evenly distributed over the entire pan contents. Preheat the oven to 200°C (mk6).
- Pour the crème fraiche over the mixture, mix gently and then pour the whole lot into an oven dish. Do not remove the natural crust from the Reblochon cheese (though if it has a label or a plastic coating of any sort, remove all of that, of course) and cut into slices ensuring that the harder ‘crust’ or edges are cut quite small and buried deeply so that it softens easily.
- Stir the cheese into the mixture a little, then put some of the thinner slices on top of the potatoes and pop it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check that the top does not over-brown (another way of saying ‘don’t let the bugger burn’.)
- Remove the dish from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes before delving into its steaming contents. Don’t burn your mouth!
- Savour with a glass or four of nice, crisp, white wine – or whatever wine you like.
You’ve just made a dish full of history – recent history, perhaps, but history all the same.