Europe sometimes resembles more a little village than a continent. At least I can't help thinking so when I look at the relationship we Italians have with our French neighbours, our "cugini d'oltralpe" –cousins across the Alps– as we call them. There's both love and hate, jealousy and admiration, likeness and envy... on both sides, I like to think. Just loveable cousins' fights, compared to what the English feel for the
frog eaters neighbours across the Channel.
One thing we Italian definitely do not suffer lightly is France supposed role as global culinary heaven and reference... OK, we're just envious. The simple truth is that whatever we might think, France gastronomic infrastructure and promotional ability is something we can only aim to imitate successfully. In this, I'm definitely different from my fellow-Italian: I like France, its food, its wines, but most of all the passionate opinions and discussions these subjects stimulate, not unlike in Italy. I do have my grudges too, starting from Larousse Gastronomique's many hilarious entries on Italian food and continuing with a certain stiff and kill-joy haute-cuisine ideal – which luckily seems to be loosing ground even in its birthplace –, but I love the Bistro philosophy, close to the Italian Trattoria yet different, and adore its regional home-style cuisine. Good for me that Laura did not choose haute-cuisine classics for this month's IMBB theme!
As usual, picking the actual dish was the difficult part: too much too choose and too little time to do so. As you can guess pro-active decision-taking is my strength when it comes to cooking! My taste buds wanted to take me South, to Provence or the French Basque Country, but in he end I kept with the good old tradition of traditional Regional cuisine: follow the season and the market. Leafing through Paul Bocuse's French Regional cuisine book, I stumbled on Tartiflette, or Savoy style potatoes, which seemed just perfect for a snowy day like today. The recipe below is a combination of Bocuse's Regional French Cooking and Anthony Bourdain's "Les Halles" Cookbook recipe. Bocuse's recipe has a better techniques, but is much richer, with a very high cheese and bacon to potatoes ratio. A wee bit too much even for me. SO here it is, and as Tony B states "there's never too much cheese, bacon or starch".
700 g waxy potatoes
half a form Reblochon cheese (approx 300-350 g)
160 g dry cured bacon
1 medium onion
120 ml dry white wine
salt (fine and coarse), pepper and butter.
Boil the potatoes in plenty of water which you'll have salted with coarse sea salt. Calculate approx. 20 minutes from the moment the water starts boiling, the potatoes should be easy to pierce with a fork, but should still be slightly "al dente" in the middle. Meanwhile cut the bacon into lardons and slice the onion as fine as you can. Blanch the bacon lardons one minute in boiling water.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and let them cool till you can hold them comfortably in your hand. Pre-heat your oven at 180°C. Peel them and cut them into 1-1,5 cm thick slices. In a pan melt a good tablespoon of butter and add onions and bacon to it. Cook, stirring, for about five minutes or until both start to brown. Add the sliced potatoes to the pan and cook, delicately stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, adding the wine after the first 3-4 minutes.
Transfer the potato mixture to a buttered oven-proof dish. Cut the Reblochon in half length-wise and place the two halves on top of the potatoes with the rind down. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, till the cheese forms a nice golden crust on top. Let cool slightly (just to avoid burning your tongue) and serve hot.
Wine: the classical wine to go with Tartiflette would be the classic crisp and dry Apremont white wine from Savoy. Having no chance to get that here, I opted for an Italian wine (sorry couldn't resist!) with similar character: a crisp but nicely structured Colli Orientali del Friuli Sauvignon from Sirch, with good alcohol, rich of varietal aromas, and with a long pleasant finish, which went down very nicely with the rich Tartiflette