Thursday, November 30, 2017

French Cheese: Reblochon

Reblochon in French means to pinch a cow's udder again. Centuries ago, the French Alpine tenant dairy farmers were taxed on the yield of milk provided by their cows. Since they did not fully milk at first go, the landowner's cut was based on that incomplete amount. The farmer then finished the milking second time around which was kept for making cheese. In this way the landowner was milked, not only in quantity but also quality, as the second milking provided richer milk. However, it was only much later, around the 1980s that tartiflette came into being as a dish to showcase this raw milk AOC cheese. This dish is unforgettable because of the tremendous meltability of Reblochon allowing it to become an instant sauce in which onions, potatoes, and bacon are braised though the bloomy rind coloured with a flush of orange-red remains in the form of an intensely flavoured, honeycombed crisp. I first made this Savoie dish during our ten-year sojourn in Grenoble. This time around, I substituted lean minced beef for bacon because I was aiming for something a little less rich.

The potatoes are from our potager

I love that reblochon comes with its own little cutting board.

makes 6 copious servings
An oven dish holding at least 2 L is required

  • Reblochon, 450 g round (because of it being made from raw milk, it is no longer available in America, but a pasturised version is, called Delice de Jura.)
  • Potatoes, all purpose, 1 kg
  • Bacon (chopped) or lean minced beef, 200 g
  • Onions, yellow, medium, 2 (around 200 g)
  • White wine or broth or cream (which is what I used), 10 cl
  • Oil (if not using bacon), 2-3 T (I used sunflower)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg, if desired (freshly ground), to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks roughly the size of unshelled walnuts: big enough to know it's a potato, small enough so it will become tender.

You will need a large fry pan, preferably non-stick. Thinly slice the peeled onions. You can halve them first, then slice. If using bacon, render it first for a minute or two and then add onions. If using beef, brown in a separate pan in a little oil, set aside, and add onions to the large fry pan well slicked with oil. Saute onions over medium-low heat for several minutes until translucent and a little soft.

Add potatoes and cook gently for about twenty minutes, stirring from time to time.

When they are fork tender, though not completely cooked, splash in the wine or broth or cream. Stirring more frequently, simmer for another five minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Meanwhile, cut the round of cheese in half, then slice crosswise each half to get 4 thin sections.

Chop coarsely two sections of cheese and add them along with the potato mixture into an oven dish. If substituting beef, add that. Mix well. Season to taste. Place the two remaining sections of cheese (with the rind side facing up) on top.

The wonderful oval ceramic dish gotten from a flea market cost just a few euros

Bake for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are fully tender, the cheese is oozing and bubbling like there is no tomorrow, and the rind is golden and crisp. Let cool for a little while for the ocean of cheese to thicken a bit.

Tartiflette most likely is derived from the Arpitan word for potato

Serve with green salad and white wine. If you chose beef instead of bacon, light red wines like Sancerre and Beaujolais are possibilities. And thank your lucky stars those Alpine dairy farmers were smarter then their landowners.

À la prochaine!


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