When I returned from my trip to California about a month ago, I was delightfully surprised to find that the weather was unseasonably warm in Brittany. We had about 2 weeks of 50 degree weather which meant that I was able to leave my apartment with just a jacket, as opposed to the fortress of layers, hats, scarves and mittens I had been donning previously. I even began to think “Hey, maybe winter is over! Maybe it will just keep getting warmer until it is spring, and then summer…” I was already planning trips to the beach and imagining breaking my bikini out of the recesses of my suitcase. And then the cold, hard reality set in once again (cold being the operative word…). Just as quickly as the warmth had set-in, it evaporated: the weather is now just as cold, if not colder than it was before I left for California in December. I am reminded once again that the seasons never march forward in one straight line in Brittany. But, rather like the Breton people themselves, the seasons here seem to zig zag lazily, finding their own carefree and independent path. So, I guess I’ll have to wait patiently for a few more months until my first spring in Brittany arrives.
Until then, I am beating the cold with an arsenal of heart-warming winter dishes. In December, I wrote a post about the Christmas Market here in Rennes. If you remember, I sang the praises of a traditional French dish called tartiflette. It is pure brilliance in the form of potatoes, ham and reblochon cheese, all laced together with crème fraiche and white wine. I vowed to make it. Last week, the time finally came…
After much research, I settled on this recipe. However, if you’ve been following this blog at all than you know that I am rather incapable of following a recipe. So, I’ve re-written the recipe (in English, as the one is used is written in French), including my own little rebellions.
Caely’s Americanized Tartiflette
2 kg potatoes (4.4 pounds)
1-2 TBSP olive oil or butter
2 onions, halved and then sliced thinly
200 g smoked lardons (7-8 ounces), chopped into 1″ cubes
1 tub (8 ounces) crème fraiche at 30% fat content
6 ounces dry white wine
1 wheel reblochon cheese
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Halve and then slice the potatoes at about 1/2″ thickness. Boil them in salted water about 15 minutes, or until they are pierced easily with a knife.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil or butter (0r a combination of the two). Once the oil is heated through (you can test this by lightly sprinkling water over the oil – if it sizzles, it’s ready!) add the onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember the lardon is quite salty, so don’t overdo the salt! Cook about 10 minutes or until the onions are beginning to look translucent. Add the lardons and cook a further 10 minutes.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the crème fraiche and the white wine together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Butter a large gratin or casserole dish. Add half of the potatoes, then half of the crème fraiche mixture followed by half of the onions and lardons. Repeat the last 3 steps.
Cut the block of reblochon cheese into thick strips and layer evenly over the top of the casserole.
Bake the tartiflette for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly. It’s a good idea to cook the casserole on some sort of baking sheet, as the cheese is likely to drip over the sides of the dish.
Let sit 10 minutes, and then dig in!
Here are more teasing photos that will motivate you to recreate this dish chez vous!
As the tartiflette is very heavy, I served it with a very light salad comprised of lettuce and a lemon vinaigrette. We enjoyed it with a bottle (or two…) of Chotes du Rhone and had a chocolate mousse (from the supermarket shelves) for dessert. I just love that I have access to amazing chocolate mousse and wine for so cheap!
And, as usual, what made the whole meal worth it was the company…
Stay tuned for more heart-warming winter dishes. I see some soups in my near future. Until then, bon appétit!