Tartiflette – a hearty dish from the Savoie in France

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At least here where I live, the winter has been long and cold. So now when easter is soon coming up and winter finally giving in for spring a comfy dish like tartiflette would be very suitable. Fairly easy to make, flavourful and hearty.

Tartiflette is a dish from the Savoie, eastern France that is. You may think yhink this dish has long tradistions, but alas the answer is no. “Invented” some time during the 1980s Rumour has it the manufacturers of Reblochon had to do someting to increase sales of their cheese. Heard it before? Probably. Just like fondue in Swtizerland. Nothimng wrong with that. As soon as a dish is established we tend to put in more tradition than it deserves! Like Tartiflette that is a fairly new thing. Does not really matter as long as it tastes good, and naturally, Reblochon is a key ingredient. But is does not have to, you can use a local cheese of the same kind if you so wish. A mild washed rind cheese that is.

This is what you need..

750 g potatoes
200 g bacon – sliced and cut in cubes
25 g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 dl dry white wine or vermuth
1 dl whipping cream
Some salt and pepper according to your likes (remember there is salt in the cheese as well)
250 g Reblochon (at least half a cheese)

..and this is how you do it

Heat your oven to 175 degrees C
Use large potaoes, boil them for 20 minutes. Unpeeled. Drain the water and let them cool in cold water.
Peel the potatoes, and slice them about 1 cm thick. Then dice the slices.

Cut the bacon in 1/2 cm thick slices and then cut into dice.
Warm the butter in the frying pan and fry the bacon until golden brown. Mind the heat – not too hot. Use a skimmer when removing the bacon from the frying pan so you drain most of the fat. Brown the onion in the bacon fat until shiny and golden brown. Put the onion on some kitchen paper to dry of the fat. Use some kitchen paper to dry off the frying pan. Bacon and onion back into the frying pan together with the white wine. Boil with high temperature until most of wine is vaporated. Add the diced potatoes. Blend well and stir frequently so it does not burn. Add the cream and salt and pepper according to your likes. Blend and let cook for a minute.

Grease the inside of an ovenproof dish. Pour it all over into the dish and smooth the top with the back of a spoon so it becomes even.

If you have a whole Reblochon wheel cut it in two and save one half for later. You only need one half (a half moon so to speak). Buy half a cheese if you have no other use for the rest. Make slits in the rind with a sharp knife, both sides and the side. Then cut the cheese in two so you have two half moons. (Like you do when making a cream cake). The two pieces should now have half the thickness of a normal Reblochon. You have two half moons. Put these on top of the dish with paste down and rind up. From above it now looks like a wheel. Cover the ovenproof dish with aluminum foil. Put in the middle of the oven and leave for one hour. Remove the foil after an hour and stir so the cheese blends well with the rest of the ingredients. Turn on the grill element of the oven and roast til the top becomes golden brown. Watch the process so the top does not get burned.

if you want to use a local cheese that’s fine. Preferably a Reblochon style cheese.

To drink

What about a white from the same area, Savoie? Perhaps not the most widely spread of wines, but they are available. Never wrong to dink local wines. Even though I personally will favour some white, this is a dish that goes well with both white and red wines. The cheese is the main ingredient with a fair dash of bacon responsible for the main flavours. The main white grape of Savoie is probably Jacquére while Mondeuse is the main red variety. Not very well known any of them perhaps. All the more important to try them out. If you find wines from the Savoie too scary, try the nabouring area, Jura. Bon appétit.

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Parmigiano Reggiano da Latte di Sola Bruna Italiana

parmigiano reggiano
Parmigiano Reggiano da Latte di sola Bruna from the Valserena farm

Isn’t Parmigiano Reggiano exactly that, or Parmesan if you like? Well, there is Mozzarella di Bufala and then there is Mozzarella from cow’s milk. The original is from Buffalo’s milk. And the same applies to Parmigiano Reggiano. Well, any Parmigiano Reggiano is made from cow’s milk, but as this cheese has become increasingly popular around the world, the need for more milk has exploded and with that the introduction of a high yielding cow. Hence the Holstein making most of the milk for today’s Parmigiano Reggiano. But it’s not the original, that’s the red, white and brown cows respectively. They yield less milk, but milk that is more suited for cheese making. Then there is this thing about sticking to what’s original. Some don’t bother, other’s think that’s important. I belong to the latter.

I do not know how much more milk a Holstein makes a day compared to the originals, but I assume the difference is considerable. And that difference probably means money – and money talks. If you think breed is breed, milk is milk, feeding is feeding, pasture is pasture and even dairy is dairy, well then I thing you are wrong. That’s why the breed thing is so important. It’s about history, culture and not least keeping to the original.

Parmigiano Reggiano of milk from solely brown cows

The brown cow, or Bruna Italiana is an old cow when it comes to making Parmigiano Reggiano. Probably not one of the originals but it has an ideal protein/fat ratio for cheese making. The Bruna Italiana is originally a Brown Swiss that was long ago brought across the alps to the plains of the Po river and has over time become Bruna Italiana as it is known by now – in Italy.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_9344-1024x683.jpg
Parmigiano Reggiano di Latte da sola Bruna 24 mnd

Bruna Italiana is not an extinction threatened breed

Unlike Vacche Rosse and Bianca Modenese where they keep working to rebuild herds, the brown cow is quite widespread most of all because of the cheese making qualities of the milk. Why then is Bruna Italiana so special? Because as I just said of the qualities of the milk and because they are not all that many using this breed for making Parmigiano Reggiano.

Some cheesemakers use some milk, often in blends with other breeds, but the farm Valserena use solely Bruna Italiana (or Vacca Bruna if you like) and have done so since the farm was founded back i 1879. They had a plan and imported the animals from Switzerland. Since then they have worked steadily with farming, cheese making, breeding and not least establish Parmigiano Reggiano with milk from brown cow as a quality brand. Which was crowned in 2005 when the Disolabruna® Consortium was etablished. With the PDO together they represent both protection and recognition.

Valserena – the farm

A farm housing 260 milking cows in addition to calves and pigs. The milk from these 260 milking cows is enough to make 14 cheeses every day. They also grow wheat, corn and sugar beets. The pigs are fed on whey and corn.

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Burns night

January 25th, that’s the date. Or that week rather, for practical reasons. Burns night is not one day like 17th of May, but an evening during that week where people gather to celebrate this significant Scottish poet. Robert Burns. You’ve heard the name.

Robert Burns Credit: Yale Center for British Art

So what’s he so famous for? Poems, but most of all Auld Lang Syne. During the celebrations they meet to read poems, sing songs, eat haggis and other Scottish delicacies such as cheese. And drinking whisky. That’s what they do on Burns night.

My Burns night

In week today I have planned to have my burns night celebration during my cheese tasting streaming (which will be in Norwegian by the way). Not so much singing en poetry reading. Scottish cheese and whisky on the other hand, that’s more like it. The thing is there are hardly any cheese from Scotland in this country, apart from Isle of Mull. A wonderful cheese, no doubt but it does not alone make any diversity.

PS. Tonight it’s all about Comté. Perhaps with a glass of single malt Scotch at least?

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Pont l’Évêque from Normandy

Pont l'Évêque
Pont l’Évêque Hossaye

Pont l’Évêque has a lot in common with Livarot, but I find it at times more approachable than the latter. Apart from the fact it is square and difficult to spell Pont l’Évêque it appears milder and more elegant than its perhaps more famous relative – ranking higher as well, colonel as it is. A very pleasing cheese Pont l’Évêque.

Cheese with a history

Pont l’Évêque is known as far back as the 12th century, even under different names, such as d’Angelot according to Cheese.com. Its present square look was acquired during the 1800s mostly to distinguish from just the Livarot. As you probably notice from the picture above it is a very appealing cheese, very clean and delicate rind, but don’t be fooled by that. Rightly so, no wolf in sheep’s clothing, but it is a washed rind cheese and it does come with a personality of its own. Usually packed in a wooden box, not being very important other than for safe transport.

Pont l’Évêque – a town and a county

Pont l’Évêque is also a town and a county situated in the department of calvados, a short distance inland from the coast where the more famous beach town of Deauville right south of where the river Seine hits the ocean or the English channel if you like. A wonderful area to visit by the way, full of history, both recent and more distant. Nothing like the mediterranean, and expect a shower or two.

To drink

What to drink with a cheese from an area full of apples? Calvados obviously, the apple brandy. if you find it somewhat on the strong side, there is cider. Still or sparkling, but I recommend dry. Enjoy.

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