Friday, 23 March 2012

Sno-zone Layer

I recently took off from Chicago on an evening Trans Atlantic flight in bright sunshine and cloudless skies with not a flake of snow on the ground. We were greeted on our descent into London Heathrow at sunrise by a fresh blanket of snow covering the green and pleasant land: it seemed everything that should be normal is not normal. Things seemed to be upside down, inside out and topsy turvey (thankfully not the airplane): my unsynchronised bodyclock, the distant acquaintance with my homeland after a year of absence, and, on an inauspicious note, the disconnect between anticipated and actual weather patterns.
The reality of climate change appears increasingly obvious. The last winter Olympics in Whistler were characterised by a serious lack of the white stuff, and, going slightly off-piste, I am wondering what apres-ski fayre was on offer as sustenance for those ski folk going stir crazy from the lack of snow. Elk? Venison? Freshly landed Pacific Coast seafood? I’m not convinced that highly tuned Olympic athletes coming off the slopes would plump for such cheesy Alpine delights as Tartiflette, a staple of those chalet restaurants that dot the mountainsides of the Savoie in France. Potatoes, cheese, bacon and cream are baked together with a triumphant result.
The reality of this dish is the reverse of it’s delicate sounding name. It is rich, luxurious and homely. I recall groaning my way through a Tartiflette during the height of a heatwave some years ago while camping in the Savoie, being pig-headed about eating a regional favourite. A half Reblechon sits on top of the potato mixture so that when the cheese melts the rind is left on top. Delicious. Pickled vegetables or gherkins make a good acidic accompaniment washed down with a glass of cold white wine. Our garden potatoes were limited this year but in abundance they can be stored successfully over winter. Reblochon can easily be replaced by Ardrahan, an award winning Irish washed rind cheese with a distinctly earthy aroma and an equally good crust.


Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 lb/1.1 kg waxy potatoes
  • 2 tbsp/28 g butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2lb/225g slab bacon chopped, or lardons
  • ¼ cup/60 ml dry white wine
  • 1 cup/240ml heavy cream
  • 1lb/450g Reblochon cheese (Substitute with Ardrahan or Hooligan) 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C.
  2. Put the potatoes into a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes. (Use potatoes of similar size to ensure even cooking).
  3. Drain the potatoes and slice into 1 cm rounds when cooled.
  4. In a saute pan heat the butter, add the onion and saute until golden brown. Add the bacon/lardons and saute over a medium heat until crisp. Pour off any excess fat.
  5. Add the potatoes and wine to the saute pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the cream, salt and pepper to taste. Stir all the ingredients together for a minute.
  7. Butter the inside of 10 inch earthenware baking dish. Add the potato mixture and smooth the surface.
  8. Slice the cheese in half horizontally into half moons. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the crust of each piece.
  9. Place the two pieces of cheese crust-side-up on top of the potatoes so that they form a circular cheese again. Bake in the oven until bubbling, for about 45 minutes.

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