Yes, tartiflette beat the likes of Boeuf Bourguignon, Gratin Dauphinois, Aligot and Cassoulet to the title of the most searched after recipe in France in 2017. That suggests the French are a hungry lot who can't get enough of their hearty winter dishes.
Here's the story behind tartiflette, which you must try at least once this winter.
Let's start with the name.
Apart from the taste and the smell, the best thing about tartiflette might just be its name. Altogether now “tartiflette”. Sounds brilliant doesn't it? In fact it sounds perfect if it's said with a French, Cockney, American or South African accent.
According to a quick search on Google, the word is believed to have been derived from the Arpitan word for potato, which is not pommes de terre but “tartiflâ”.
Wait what's Arpitan, we hear you mutter? Arpitan or otherwise referred to as “Franco-Provençal” is officially recognised as a regional language of France that was spoken in the Alps region.
And the ingredients?
The ingredients of tartiflette explain why it is known as a stomach-busting winter dish: Potatoes, Reblochon cheese, bacon (or more to the point lardons), creme fraiche/cream (though not always), onions and wine.
Here a few pics to whet your appetite.
It is believed the modern version of the dish originates from the traditional “péla” which is just a gratin of potatoes, cheese and onions cooked in a long handled pan, without the bacon or onions.
But in the 1980s the producers of Reblochon cheese, a soft-washed rind cheese, from the Savoie region of the French Alps came up with a cunning way of promoting their product (although some dispute this version of events). They decided the new key ingredient of tartiflette should be Reblochon cheese. And luckily for them the stomachs of Alpine skiers, hikers and general cheese lovers all agreed.
Since then it has earned its place on the menus of Alpine restaurants and ski stations alongside the other traditional cheesy winter dishes of fondue and raclette.
In 2014 it was actually awarded the quality assurance “red label” in France although strict rules were imposed: it can only be made with Reblochon and the cheese must make up 20 percent of the recipe.
There a few spin offs of the tartiflette, including Morbiflette, which is the same but made with Morbier cheese in Franche-Comté and Croziflette where the potatoes are replaced by locally made pasta called Crozets de Savoie.
And when to eat it?
Winter obviously. You can find tartiflette in restaurants all over France, but it will never taste better than in the Alps after a day's skiing or hiking. And in theory it should be washed down with a white wine from the region: try Apremont or Chignin.
Avoid more than one a day and don't eat before a doctor's check up. It's also good to walk home from the restaurant afterwards.
How to cook it?
As with any recipe there are always different variations on ingredients and cooking methods. And obviously a Google search will open your eyes to different ways of doing things. But according to the site Marmiton, this is how to make a “real tartiflette”:
Peel potatoes, cut into cubes, rinse well and dry in a clean cloth.
Heat the oil in a pan, fry the onions.
When the onions are fried, add the potatoes and brown them on all sides.
When golden, add bacon and finish cooking.
Scrape the rind of the Reblochon and cut it in half (or in four).
Preheat the oven to 200C (thermostat 6-7) and prepare a gratin dish by rubbing the bottom and edges with the peeled garlic clove.
In the gratin dish, spread a layer of bacon and potatoes, place half of the reblochon on top of it, then potatoes again. Finish with the rest of the reblochon.
Bake for about 20 minutes.