My oldest friend Rosie and I invented this holiday several years ago when we were living in France, and you know, a dish this amazing really does deserve it’s very own holiday.
The first time I heard of tartiflette was on a bus on my way to go skiing in the Alps. When my friend Aimee realized that I had never tasted it, she gasped, grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and told me I was truly missing out on an amazing culinary experience. She described it as crack for gourmands. As it turned out, she didn’t particularly care about skiing and she had come on the trip for the food. And, she was right. It was every bit as tasty as she had led me to believe.
After that trip to the Alps, I’ve tried many tartiflettes. My favorite is at a tiny, little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Montpellier, France called La Ferme. It may be far from the Alps, but La Ferme is so good that it is worth going to great lengths to dine there. One time, Rosie and I fasted all day to ensure we could clean our plates, and every time I am in France, I go to Montpellier to eat their tartiflette. La Ferme also has potatoes cooked in goose lard, a charming and lovely husband and wife team, and a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Eeee, I wish I could go this weekend, but a homemade tartiflette is pretty good too.
2 lb waxy white potatoes (I recommend Yukon Golds)
¾ cup lardons or chopped bacon
1 small onion, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp crème fraîche
¾ to 1 pound of Reblochon cheese or equivalent amount of Port Salut (I’ve seen Reblochon at the Whole Foods in Santa Fe before, and if you live in a city, you should be able to find it no problem. I had the hardest time finding Reblochon last year, and I had to substitute Port Salut and Raclette. I did half and half, and the Port Salut has much more flavor if you need to substitute.)
1/3 cup dry white wine (from Savoie if possible)
salt and pepper
Clean the potatoes and boil the whole potatoes in a large pot of water until just tender but slightly undercooked, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in butter until translucent. Fry the chopped bacon until cooked through; remove from pain and drain. Thinly slice the potatoes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9x13 casserole dish. Evenly spread a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, spread 1/3 of crème fraîche over the potatoes and layer on half the bacon and onions. Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and pepper. Add another layer of potatoes, 1/3 of the crème fraîche and the remaining bacon and onions. Top with the remaining potatoes, crème fraîche and pour the white wine evenly over the gratin. Note: feel free to be quite liberal with the crème fraîche.
Cut the wheel of Reblochon in half to make two thinner wheels of cheese. Place each wheel cut side down on top of the potato gratin so that the rind is visible. If you’re using the Port Salut, just cut it up into chunks and spread evenly over gratin. Cover as much of the gratin’s surface area with cheese as possible. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and browned on top.