The Taste of The French Alps
Every region of the world has its own style of food, usually derived from what is traditionally available in those regions. The Savoie region of the French Alps, where Morzine is situated, has many delicious local ingredients to make the most of. But, for most people, the taste of the French Alps brings to mind cheese, cheese and more cheese (maybe with some meat and potatoes thrown in for good measure).
These local specialities originate from when olden-day mountain folk had to survive being stuck up a mountain for large parts of the year, due to being snowed in, and only had their stores of meat, cheese and potatoes to sustain them.
Whether it’s a bubbling Fondue, or a delicious Raclette – French mountain food tends to be rich, heavy and extremely tasty!
So we are starting a short series of blog posts to help you decide which one to choose on your next visit to the French Alps. This will come in handy if you are staying in one of our self catered apartments or fancy something local on the chalet host’s night off.
We are kicking off with one of our favourites: Tartiflette.
Ingredients don’t get much better than gooey cheese, potatoes and bacon all layered in a creamy white wine sauce and baked to perfection. In our opinion, there’s nothing better than finishing up a big day on the mountain with a bubbling Tartiflette and some delicious French wine.
From the traditional recipe to a trendy deconstructed versions, tartiflette is served in pretty much every restaurant in Morzine. You can even get tartiflette pizzas!
The key: Reblochon Cheese
Reblochon is a rich, creamy local cheese and is the traditional cheese used in tartiflette. The word Reblochon derives from “reblocher” which weirdly means “to pinch the cows udder again”. This is because in the 14th century farmers were taxed on the amount of milk their cows produced. So they would not fully milk their cows until the land owners measured the yield. The remaining milk was much richer, making their cheese that much creamier.
Obviously Reblochon is very easy to find in Morzine, but it is still available in the UK. Good delicatessens, cheese shops and artisan markets do stock it.
If you can’t find Reblochon then Port Salut cheese, which is widely available in most British supermarkets, will work as a substitute.
Tartiflette is an easy dish to make; perfect for cold winter nights and great for feeding a crowd.
Below is a traditional recipe and our alternative recipe, which we serve to our guests in our catered chalets The differences are that the traditional version layers the cheese and potatoes, while our version has the cheese pushed between the potatoes and has a very wine-y sauce.
Try making both versions and let us know what you think!
Tartiflette is best served with charcuterie, fresh crisp green salad, cornichons and a decent bottle of wine. For vegetarians, you can substitute some chopped chestnut mushrooms for the bacon bits.
Traditional Tartiflette Recipe
500g (1lb 2oz) good-quality smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
2 tbsp vegetable oil
40g (1 1⁄2oz) unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 tbsp chopped thyme
4 tbsp plain flour
120ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
600ml (1 pint) double cream
Grating of nutmeg
600g (1lb 5oz) desirée potatoes (or other waxy variety)
200ml (7 fl oz) full-fat milk
200ml (7fl oz) water
1 Reblochon Cheese (roughly 450g)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
✽ Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5).
✽ Prepare the lardons (cubed bacon) first by putting enough water to cover them in a large pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil. Add the lardons and cook for 10 seconds. This removes the excess salt. Drain well.
✽ Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the drained lardons and fry for 10-12 minutes until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon on to kitchen paper to drain.
✽ Next, put the butter in a pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes until golden, then add the bay leaf and thyme. Cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes, then add the drained lardons and the flour. Cook for 2 minutes more, then add the wine. Cook for 5 minutes until the wine has evaporated, then add the cream.
✽ Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Season to taste with salt, if required, and with pepper and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
✽ Peel the potatoes and cut them into 5mm (1⁄4in) slices. Rinse the slices under cold running water, then put them in a pan and cover with the milk and water.
✽ Add a few pinches of salt and cook the potato slices over a medium heat for 8 minutes until they are cooked but still slightly firm. Try not to overcook. Drain well.
✽ Place the sliced potatoes in overlapping rows in an ovenproof dish and pour the cream and wine sauce on top.
✽ Cut the Reblochon in half widthways, then in half again lengthwise to produce 4 pieces. Place the pieces on top with the rind face up.
✽ Bake in the oven on the top shelf for 10-15 minutes until golden and bubbling.
The More Mountain Tartiflette Indulgence!
36 waxy potatoes (3 per person)
400ml of double cream
750ml Light Creme Fraîche (4% fat or thereabouts)
6 large onions, chopped
400g smoked bacon lardons
200g unsmoked bacon lardons
3 cloves garlic
1 bottle of white wine
Salted butter to fry off onions and line the baking dish
3 Reblochon Cheese Rounds (450g each, so 1.35kg in total)
Optional: 150g grated Comté cheese or mature Cheddar
✽ Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).
✽ Slice potatoes in half or leave them whole if smaller than an egg, but leave the skins on.
✽ Boil them in salted water until firm (about 10 minutes). Then drain them in a colander, rinse them off under cool water, set aside and leave to cool.
✽ Fry off the chopped onions in butter until golden and add the garlic for 1 minute. Then deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine.
✽ Add bacon lardons once the wine has reduced and stir for about 5 minutes.
✽ Add a splash more wine to deglaze the pain again.Add the creme fraîche and reduce down.
✽ Add 100ml of the cream and reduce again.
✽ Add another glass of wine and reduce a bit more, before adding the rest of the cream and some black pepper.
✽ Put the potatoes into a buttered baking dish whole. This is the secret: Squash each spud ever so slightly, so they are slightly crushed with the back of a spoon or your thumb, just enough to burst them out of the skin. You don’t want mashed potatoes!
✽ Slice each Reblochon round into 16 small wedges, keeping the rind on the cheese then squeeze and nuzzle the cheese wedges in between each of the crushed potatoes.
✽ Pour the creamy lardon mix over the potatoes.
✽ Tilt the pan to evenly distribute the cream and lardons.
✽ Add a bit more wine over the top of the dish and freshly cracked black pepper. Tilt the dish side to side to distribute the extra wine evenly. For extra deliciousness, sprinkle some grated Comté or Cheddar cheese on top!
✽ Bake for 45 mins on the top shelf until golden brown and bubbling at the edges!
Oh… and Don’t forget the Génépi. Bon appétit!