It’s no secret that when it comes to food, the French do things absolutely right. Bread, potatoes, cream, cheese, garlic – could there be anything better?
I hit peak (ha ha…) French food on my recent trip to The Alps over the new year. I learned to ski, used muscles I never knew I had and renewed my appreciation of simple French food.
The first dish I tried is called Tartiflette. This Alpine classic’s main components are waxy potatoes, cream, shallots, lardons and creamy Reblochon cheese. Although the sight, smell and taste of Tartiflette conjure up images of centuries-old mountain fare, the origins of the dish lie in a desperate sales push in the 1980s.
Tartiflette was created by ‘Le Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Reblochon’ in an effort to drive sales of the washed rind soft cheese, Reblochon.
The name Tartiflette comes from the regional French word ‘tartifles’, meaning potatoes. This modern French classic is based on a dish with more humble roots. Péla is a traditional Savoie dish made from just potatoes, shallots and reblochon. Reblochon producers added lardons, wine, cream and, yes, more Reblochon to adapt the Pèla recipe and create something truly delicious and indulgent.
There are many versions of Tartiflette throughout The Alps. Each village and valley has its own way of making Tartiflette, so you’re unlikely to eat the same one twice. Popular variations include Croziflette, which uses small pieces of pasta instead of potato, and Morbiflette, which replaces Reblochon with Morbier cheese.
Because there are so many versions of Tartiflette, I don’t feel too bad about creating my own version, sans lardons. The French might call it sacrilege, but I think it’s still pretty delicious.
Another dish that captured my heart was Croute Savoyard. This dish is so classically Savoie that it took me quite some time to dig out the recipe online, and even then, it’s only available in French (hello Google Translate…).
Again, this dish is simple, combining bread, wine, cheese, cured ham and eggs. What really makes the difference with this dish is using the best quality ingredients you can afford. Lidl does some really great bread, cheeses and ham, so I’d recommend going there, whatever your budget.
1kg waxy potatoes, such as Charlotte
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1 wheel (450g) Reblochon cheese
200ml double cream
salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Although, to be honest, the first time I made this was in an oven that looked like a microwave with markings from one to ten, so as long as it’s hot it’ll do.
- Set a large pan of water to boil, then peel your potatoes. Once boiling, add the potatoes to the pan and par-boil for five minutes. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.
- Heat the butter in a small frying pan and add the shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Fry until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms start to get a little crispy.
- Add the wine to the pan cook until the liquid has almost evaporated.
- Slice the potatoes into thin slices and prepare to layer up.
- Grease a medium-sized baking dish with butter, then put in a layer of potatoes, then mushrooms, then cream, then thin slices of Reblochon. Season as you go and repeat until the potatoes have been used up, then top with a little more cream and slices of Reblochon.
- Bake for around 20 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown slightly.
- Serve with a fresh, green salad with a French mustard dressing, a few slices of baguette and a glass (or three) of wine.
Vegetarian Croute Savoyard
8 slices of white, French baguette
300ml white wine
1 wheel Reblochon cheese
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of butter
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease a medium-sized baking dish with the butter and place the slices of baguette into it.
- Pour over the wine, then top with slices of cheese.
- Bake for about 15 minutes
- While the cheesy bread is cooking, fry the eggs in butter in a small frying pan.
- When the cheese is bubbling, remove the dish from the oven and top with the fried eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with a fresh green salad with a French mustard dressing. If you’re feeling extra hungry after skiing, you can have this with a bowl of crispy frites.