In the last week, Paris has made an abrupt transition to fall. The whole city is bathed in warm reds, oranges, and browns (that is, when it isn’t raining). The sidewalks are covered with dry, crumbly leaves that crunch when stepped on. My farmer instinct is urging me to harvest apples, grapes, pumpkins, and squash. My stomach is begging for comfort food – hot, thick, and packed with deep flavors like cinnamon and caramelized onions.
To celebrate the coming of fall and appease our stomachs, my friends and I decided to have a dinner party. Our menu: a traditional French Tartiflette, green beans and a not-so-French Jewish apple cake.
A Tartiflette resembles a potato gratin, just with white wine (instead of milk) and TONS of Reblochon (a French cheese). You start by peeling and boiling potatoes, then straining them and cutting into rounds. Meanwhile, onions, mushrooms (optional) and thick-cut bacon (optional) are browned in butter in a small French oven (think Le Creuset or very large oven-proof skillet). The potatoes, once cooked and sliced, are added to the French Oven, along with some white wine. We also added a handful of herbs de Provence. Finally – and this is the best part – in goes the Reblochon. We, in between fits of laughter, cut the entire round in half (it was about as big as my outstretched hand), then placed both half rounds, rind side up, on top of the potato mixture. It is a lot of cheese – but trust me! The whole mess gets covered and put into the oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is all melted and everything is nicely browned.
Reblochon is not a faint cheese – it has a very strong odor that is, honestly, not entirely pleasant. But the flavor is nutty and the texture is oh, so rich. During the cooking process, we had all the windows in the kitchen open to try and escape the smell. Upon removing the Tartiflette from the oven, my friends held their noses. It was overpowering!
But the taste – the taste was heaven. Thick, creamy, comfort food at its best. The flavor of the cheese had died down, mixing nicely with the herbs de Provence, the browned onions and mushrooms, and starchy potatoes. A small square for each of us and we were stuffed. During the meal, the only sound to be heard was a chorus of Oh My God and Yumm. Fall celebration success.
As I said, we served with green beans (lightly sautéed in olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar) and an Apple Cake. Check out these apple cake recipes to make your own: Apple cake with Carmel Icing, Double Apple Walnut cake, or Apple Crumb Coffee Cake.
(Note: I know that after my last blog post, some of you requested recipes that can be cooked entirely on the stovetop. This recipe easily could – after adding the Reblochon, cover the pot, and turn the heat down. While it is cooking, stir a few times as best you can to make sure the bottom isn’t burning. It is ready once the Reblochon is all melted. More stovetop recipes to come soon!)
Alexis ZK studies French and Food Studies at New York University. She loves travel, dinner parties, digging in the dirt, ballroom dancing, foodie adventures and creating tasting menus in the shower. She recently ran away to Paris on a mission to discover French through food.
Traditional French Tartiflette
Serves: 4-6, as a main dish
If you cannot find Reblochon, feel free to experiment with any other fondue cheeses – like Brie or Muenster. Feel free to add things into the tartiflette and experiment to make it your own. It is hard to go wrong with this recipe!
4-6 potatoes, peeled (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
10-15 button mushrooms (or any of your favorite mushrooms), chopped
2 tablespoons herbs de provence (or dried thyme)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 round (16 ounces) reblochon (or whatever type of cheese you are using), sliced in half to make two discs
Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until they are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Strain, and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, slice into small rounds.
While potatoes are cooking, heat butter in a French Oven over medium heat. Add bacon (if using) and cook through. Add onions and mushrooms, and cook until brown (5 to 10 minutes).
Add in the herbs, salt and pepper and stir. Add the potato slices to the French oven. Stir. Pour in the white wine. Let cook five minutes.
Turn off the heat. Lay the cheese on top of the potato mixture and cover casserole with aluminum foil or with a lid. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid, and let cook for 5 more minutes, until browned. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!