A French Alpine Tradition: Creamy Potato, Bacon and Cheese Tartiflette

A French Alpine Tradition: Creamy Potato, Bacon and Cheese Tartiflette

  • Prep: 30 minutes
  • Cook: 15 Minutes
  • Total: 45 Minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 Servings

Tartiflette is the epitome of winter alpine tradition, inspired by the magical beauty and cold, snow-capped mountains of the Savoie province of France. Stop off in a charming ski village or wooden chalet restaurant and you will undoubtedly find this hearty dish on the menu. My host family shared this recipe with me after a long day working on their farm in the north: Tartiflette is a delicious and satisfying meal of potatoes, soft cheese, crème fraiche, lardons and onions. Certain regions create variations with sautéed wild mushrooms, seafood and lobster, confit de canard (duck) and Chevrotin, a local goat cheese.

CTartiflette is always baked with Reblochon, a rich, velvet-like cheese perfect on its own or paired with fruits, nuts, breads, and baked into tarts or casseroles. The word Reblochon is derived from the French verb reblocher, meaning ‘to squeeze cow’s udder again’.In the 14th century, farmers were taxed per the amount of milk yield. In order to avoid higher taxes, Savoie herdsmen would not completely milk their cows. Instead, after the taxman had calculated the yield, they would return and extract a little more milk. The milk remaining was much creamier, and thus Reblochon cheese was born. To this day, the milk for this cheese must be locally produced from Montbeliarde, Abondance, and Tarine cows and renneting must be done within 24 hours of the last milking. After the cheese is produced it is placed in a cellar to dry, turned every two days, and washed with whey to form the rind.
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Ingredients are simple, however the type of potato matters greatly in the texture of a Tartiflette. Waxy potatoes are low in starch and high in moisture and sugar, causing them to hold their shape well when cooked. This recipe uses Charlotte potatoes but other common varieties include Red Bliss, New Potatoes or Inca Gold. Leaving the skins on the potato is optional however it provides both flavour and texture true to the rustic tradition. The addition of lardons offers a tangy, smoky flavour that complements the cheese and potatoes.

I cook the garlic with onions and lardons; however, a gentler flavour can be brought about by rubbing the sides of the baking dish with a cut clove of garlic. Fresh thyme or rosemary can be added for a more robust flavor.

  • Ingredients
  • 1kg (2 lbs) charlotte potatoes
  • 250g (1/2 lb) bacon lardons, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100 ml (1/2 cup ) white wine (optional)
  • 200ml (1 cup ) heavy cream or crème fraiche
  • 1 Reblochon cheese ( about 450g )
  • 10 ml ( 2 tsp ) olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. While the oven is preheating, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil potatoes with a bit of salt for 15 minutes or until the exterior is tender but the inside remains slightly hard. Drain and allow to cool, then roughly slice potatoes and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and lardons and sauté until onions begin to caramelize, about 4 minutes. If desired, deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer until wine has evaporated.
  3. Rub the inside of an ovenproof dish with a bit of olive oil, then cover the bottom of the baking dish with half the potatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top the potatoes with the lardon mixture, then add the rest of the potatoes and pour the cream evenly over the top. Cut the Reblochon cheese in half horizontally and place the disks on top.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden. If desired, serve with a fresh green salad and a glass of dry white wine.

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