Writing about food has it’s perks. Stewart from The Cheese Boutique sent me a box of cheese on Friday. I’d been anticipating my special delivery since he kindly offered some samples earlier in the week. These guys specialise in French, Italian and Spanish cheeses. Stewart and his family are mad about cheese and so it was with enthusiasm that we discussed cheese, French in particular and with even more enthusiasm that I received my delivery and began tasting and cooking with the selection. The big blue up front is a Roquefort, the little one in the brown pot is St Marcellin and the other two are goats cheese. The reblochon is not pictured above, but you can see it below in my prep board for the meal I made on Stewart’s recommendation, the tartiflette.
To my non European readers, I think it would be pretty accurate to describe this meal as a gourmet potato bake. It’s like a fondu meal without all the dipping. The tartiflette came into being in the eighties to help the sales of reblochon cheese. It’s been heartily welcomed into the ski culture in the French Alps region and remains a rich and comforting meal perfect for winter.
Reblochon cheese has an interesting history, it comes from the word ‘reblocher’ which means ‘to pinch a cow’s udder again’. In 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the farmers for their own personal cheese consumption. It’s not available everywhere though because it’s made from unpasteurised cow’s milk.
Some recipes use cream and wine and some don’t, but they all have the remaining ingredients in common; onions, bacon, potatoes and cheese. You can’t go wrong with that combination. I thought perhaps the flavour would not hinge on the use of reblochon, but it did add an unmistakeable complexity to the dish. Reblochon is an unusual cheese with a nutty flavour and not my cup of tea to eat on its own, but in this dish, it really shines. This would make an ideal accompaniment to have with steak or Christmas roast. Alternatively to cut the richness you could serve it with a nice crisp salad.
Reblochon Tartiflette Recipe
A bag of creamy, waxy potatoes (I used Anya)
1 diced onion
A packet or large handful of diced pancetta or lardons
Half a wheel of reblochon cheese
Par boil the potatos, whole. I left the skin on too. Allow to cool.
Fry off the lardons in a sauce pan, then put aside.
Fry off onions, add the lardons back in and deglaze with a spash of white wine and/or vermouth.
When liquid all evaporated, add enough cream to coat the amount of potatoes you have. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat.
Cut the potatoes into slices or chunky little bits and then add to the creamy sauce. Season with salt and peper.
Put into a baking dish and layer slices of reblochon on the top.
Put in a moderate oven and let the dish heat up and the cheese melt.
Take it out and mix it all together, adding a few more slices of cheese till your reblochon is used up. Stir in and pop in the oven for a few more minutes.
Take out and serve it up.