Monday, February 11, 2013

French Comfort Food

When the temperature plummets we all need to dig a little deeper into our repertoire of comfort food recipes.
Offering up some one pot stop dishes like stew and shepherd's pie keeps us refuelled whilst we await the return of some warmer weather.
We tend to associate French cuisine with frills and fancy presentation, but its backbone is good quality local produce cooked simply.
Tartiflette is a classic winter dish from the Haute-Savoie region ( near the Alps) that uses basic ingredients which are easily transformed into a culinary hot water bottle. Here is the basic recipe but you can adapt it to your taste by adding stock instead of wine or leaving out the lardons for a vegetarian option.
Reblochon is a  round flattish cheese with a washed rind that is sold whole or in semi circular halves. It is not a cheese that will win any beauty contests but it's flavour is nutty and the texture inside is deliciously creamy.
If you can't get hold of Reblochon you can use a similar melting cheese.


Serves 2 very hungry people with a little leftover for the next day or 4 normal appetites

1 kg firm potatoes

250g lardons or diced smoked bacon
2 medium onions
Half a Reblochon cheese
3 tablespoons crème fraiche
1 glass dry white wine

1. Peel and boil the potatoes until cooked. Leave to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 220 C.
3. Slice the onions thinly and fry with the lardons on a medium heat for a few minutes until the onion is golden and the lardons browned. There should be enough fat in the lardons but if the bacon is very lean you can add a little oil. Set aside to cool a little.

4. Slice the potatoes when cool enough to handle.

5. Butter a gratin dish. I use a dish 28cm by 20cm but anything similar will do.

6. Start to build the tartiflette in layers: potato, onion mixture, potato, onion and a final layer of potato. Resist the temptation to be neat here. Season in between the layers with salt and pepper ( or get someone else to as you'll be covered in sticky potato!). Dollop over the crème fraiche and spread over the top - no need to be fancy. Throw over the best part of a glass of wine. You can leave the wine out but it does add a layer of warmth to the dish. Just use whatever you have to hand. 
7. Slice the Reblochon through the equator and then into a few rough pieces and lay over the crème fraiche - some crust side up and some down. 

8. Into the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. 30 if the potatoes were still quite warm or 40 if the dish has been assembled cold or earlier in the day. Tartiflette is very forgiving and can be cooked and reheated or left in the fridge until ready to cook.

9. If you feel it is too much of a guilty pleasure, serve with a green salad. Just add pyjamas!

Any leftovers can be picked over the next day. 

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