Tartiflette On Skis
I'm back from a veeeeery long ski holiday in the French Alps
don'cha know) with a group of instructors from the
Firbush outdoor centre
Naturally they're all quite experienced skiers, which made the eight full days on the slopes quite hard work
for someone who hasn't skied for about 5 years, and who wasn't all that great to start with.
Despite winning the medal for the fallingest skier, I survived the trip even if it did take over a week for my legs to recover.
Possibly from that wipeout when my kneecap did its best to pop itself off my leg.
We took a self-catering apartment - so naturally we ate well, taking turns to cook dinner for everyone.
I turned out a depressingly unauthentic moussaka-lika
(honestly, the pun is better than the dish),
but a very tasty and well-received pan-fried chicken breasts wrapped in bacon
(as opposed to that other kind fried on a dustbin lid),
glazed carrots with orange and honey
, served with boiled potatoes.
We allowed our budget one night out on the town and I sampled the local speciality Tartiflette
for dinner at a very homely restaurant Le Neve
in the village square.
I also enjoyed their version of Crème Brûlée, which they flamed off at the table
with a shot of the local wormwood-based hooch génépi
(vaguely related to Chartreuse).
On the return flight I filled out my baggage allowance with local meat and cheeses including, naturally,
a couple of Reblochons
so I could have a go at my own tartiflette
I have to say it was every bit as good as theirs.
A cheesy bacon and potato gratin.
Skiing in the alpine Savoie region of France I just had to try their (not-so-very-ancient)
Then I just had to make
Despite giving the impression of being a traditional local speciality,
it was actually developed as a marketing promotion in 1980 by the Reblochon cheesemakers.
Though it doesn't taste any worse for that.
So who better to tell you how to make a tartiflette than that cynosure of everything homely, earthy and above all French,
Astonishingly he does not include garlic in his recipe (I did),
and I can't help feeling that he is overly optimistic about the number of people the dish might feed -
he reckons on 6, I would count myself lucky to feed 4.
But then perhaps his guests are more blasé about this fine dish, whereas I had to go to France to get my Reblochon.
I used a dry-cured smoked saucisson sec
instead of the bacon
(well, I had
just been to France for the Reblochon), which worked just fine (you don't need to fry it up as much).
Also I diced the potatoes - the better to distinguish the dish from a gratin I thought (though the tartiflette I had in France just sliced them).
as to the best gratin potato
but I would suggest a fairly waxy variety like Desiree, Estima or Maris Peer that will hold its shape against the tide of cheese.
I used Charlotte potatoes, didn't bother to peel them and I boiled 'em up pretty good there too:
in fact they were breaking up so much that they might as well have been diced!
quite stodgy though,
so feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of crème fraîche which loosens it up nicely.
Don't overdo it though - it will get sloppy quite quickly.
makes an effective substitute for the meat-averse.
Just chop it into lardon-sized pieces and add it to the onions when you mix in the potatoes
- no need to fry it.
It's a stronger flavour than the bacon though - so you might want to use less than 200g of it.
I added sour cream and a little chopped dill when I made mine, which was quite delicious,
though I think the dill was probably unnecessary.
- 2½lb/1.1 kg potatoes, peeled
- 2 tbsps oil
- 1-2 medium onions, halved, thinly sliced or diced
- ½lb/225g ventrèche, smoked bacon cut into lardons
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup/200ml white wine
- a tablespoon or two of cream or crème fraîche
- salt and pepper
- 1lb/450g Reblochon cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C/Gas 4.
Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover and bring to the boil.
Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a paring knife.
Remove from the heat, drain and sit until they are cool enough to handle.
Cut the potatoes into ¼" slices or small dice and set aside.
Cut the bacon into lardons or small dice.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat and add the onion.
Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until golden brown,
then add the bacon and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic and stir through.
Add the potatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper.
Mix thoroughly over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the mixture from the heat and place half of it in a round, ovenproof dish.
Cut the Reblochon in half horizontally across its middle.
Spread one half of the Reblochon over the potato mix in the dish.
Cover this with the other half of the potato mixture.
Lay on top the other half of the cheese, skin-side up.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.
Serve hot with a green salad, pickles, crusty bread and the rest of that white wine.
A traditional moussaka would usually be made with minced veal or possibly lamb,
flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg,
layered into a dish with fried aubergine slices,
topped with béchamel sauce and then baked.
On a skiing holiday in the alps with no oven, I made a vague attempt at a moussaka-lika on the stove top
using some of our spare vin chaud
flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and oranges.
I also threw in some decidedly un-traditional kidney beans, red peppers, mushrooms and crumbled oatcakes
Hey, you work with what you've got.
- large (800g) can red kidney beans
- 3 aubergines, chopped into 1" cubes
- olive oil
- 500g mince
- packet oatcakes, crumbled
- 2-4 tablespoons tomato purée
- 4-6 onions, chopped
- ½ head garlic, peeled, sliced
- 2 red peppers, chopped
- 250-500g button mushrooms, quartered
- vin chaud
Empty the kidney beans into a large pot and keep it gently simmering.
Chop the aubergines, heat up a generous layer of olive oil in a deep frying pan
and fry the aubergine until it browns and the skin begins to crisp.
Add to the kidney beans in the large pot.
Fry the mince until it colours, crumble in the oatcakes, stir in tomato purée, fry until the oil separates then add to the pot.
Roughly chop the onions, fry until glassy and add to the pot.
Chop the red pepper into chunks, fry gently, then add to the pot.
Slice the garlic, fry gently and add to the pot.
Quarter the mushrooms, fry until starting to shrink then add to the pot.
Simmer the moussaka until the aubergines are no longer made of leather, and serve.
Orange Glazed Carrots
Orange-flavoured carrots is a theme I often revisit. Here's one of many versions...
- carrots, peeled, julienned
- knob of butter
- orange juice
Peel and julienne the carrots into thick matchsticks. Put in a heavy pot with a generous knob of butter,
a dose of salt, a coating of orange juice, and a blob of honey.
Put on a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently over a low heat until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the carrots are tender.
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts in Mustard Cheese Sauce
main fowl meat
I didn't have any flour around when I made the sauce for this dish, so I thickened it with egg yolks.
1 breast per person. 2 for hungry skiers.
You could make a roux using flour, or finish with cornflour if you preferred.
- chicken breasts
- 2-3 bacon slices per breast
- garlic, thinly sliced or pressed
- white wine
- Dijon mustard
- grated cheese
- egg yolks
Wrap the chicken breasts in bacon. Fry them in a little oil until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon crisped.
Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside in a warmed serving dish.
Pour off the excess fat and reserve to flavour the boiled potatoes.
Add the thinly sliced, or crushed, garlic and fry briefly before deglazing the pan with white wine,
then add cream, mustard, and grated cheese.
Heat gently until the cheese melts, then whisk in the egg yolks without boiling until the sauce thickens.
Season and pour over the chicken breasts and serve with boiled or steamed new potatoes dressed with the reserved fat.
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