One of the joys of living in so different places is to learn about the local foods, what people grow, cook and eat. While we have always enjoyed french cuisine (what’s not to like about bread, cheese, butter and wine!) we had not fully understood the “savoir-faire” that is particular to each region of France in connection with its gastronomic delights.
Our new home town, Albertville, lies in the Haute-Savoie region of France, with its own unique cheeses, sausages and wines. Some cheese varieties have strict rules such that only cows grazing within a certain area can produce a particular cheese of a particular name. Similar to the product “champagne” from the area in northeastern France, only those sparkling wines from that area can claim the name “Champagne” from where it is produced. What is it about Haute-Savoie that produces these particular cheeses?
Our french is not far enough along to understand the answer even if we could ask the question to the cheese sellers at the Thursday market. But we have learned there are several traditional dishes unique to this region made with these unique regional cheeses. Historically, there was a lot of farming and grazing of cows and goats in the area so most of the dishes are hearty, filling and full of cheese. Recently, I tried my hand at one of these traditional dishes called a tartiflette. Here’s the ingredients:
Onions are cooked with some garlic and “lardons” (pieces of ham or bacon). Potatoes are cooked and sliced thin, then layered in a casserole (much like scalloped potatoes). Half the onion-bacon mixture goes on top, then another layer of potatoes and the rest of the onions. Sour cream is mixed with white wine, nutmeg, pepper, poured over the casserole. This is baked for 15-20 minutes in a very hot oven. Then the crowning ingredient is put on. You guessed it–the cheese.
This dish is made with reblochon cheese, which is a big wheel of cheese that has been cut in half and placed rind side down on the casserole. Back in the oven to let the cheese melt over the whole thing until it is bubbly and golden. Then voila–a cheese delight emerges from the oven.
It must be accompanied by a green salad, french bread and the local white wine. It’s definitely “comfort food” a la french-style! Bon Appetite!