FOR MEMBERS

The six best French winter dishes made with cheese

The six best French winter dishes made with cheese
Nothing beats the winter blues better than a pot of bubbling fondue. Photo: AFP
As the temperatures drop we can start tucking into winter food - which in France often means very hearty dishes made with melted cheese.
France has a whole host of winter classics of course, from southern speciality cassoulet to a warming boeuf bourguignon to a the Alsace classic Backoeffe.
 
But the very best winter dishes in France involve the country's second most famous product – cheese.  (Warning, you might need to do a day's skiing or at least a session down the gym to justify these calorific delights.)
 

 
 
 
Fondue can be made with a variety of different cheeses. Photo: DepositPhotos
 
1. Fondue
 
Let's start with the daddy of cheese dishes – fondue. An Alpine delicacy that is also very popular in Switzerland, it's found particularly in eastern France in the Savoie region.
 
It's easy to make, delicious and the best way to refuel after a long day on the slopes. Pick from a variety of cheeses including Comté, Beaufort, Emmental, Appenzell or Gruyere.  Beware though – some French people get quite prescriptive over the type of cheese you can use, as The Local's Europe editor Ben McPartland discovered.
 
It is served with bread and, in some areas, a platter of charcuterie and pickles. The recommended accompaniment is white wine or in some places a vin jaune.
 
Once you've waded you way through the melted cheese you get to the best bit – the crispy scrapings on the bottom of the pot, which in France are known as la religeuse
 
And in case anyone was worried, Swiss scientists have declared that sharing a fondue is not a Covid-19 risk.
 
2. Tartiflette
 
Another one from Savoie, where they have a real way with cheese (and some long hard winters that demand plenty of warming food).
 
Tartiflette is a baked gratin of potatoes, onions and bacon with Reblechon cheese. It's extremely hearty so make sure you work up a good appetite before tackling this – it's traditional as an après ski dinner.
 
Stringy cheese plus mash equals Aligot. Photo: DepositPhotos
 
3. Aligot
 
Mashed potatoes are one of the human race's better creations, but the French go one better and add melted cheese to theirs to create Aligot.
 
A specialty of the Aubrac region in the Massif Central, it's made from mashed potatoes with cream, cheese, butter and garlic, all blended together until perfectly smooth. Cheese from the region is normally used, such as Tomme d'Auvergne or Tomme de Laguiole but other cheeses work as well. If possible get one that goes stringy when heated to get the delightful sensation of stringy mash.
 
Often served with sausages, this is a common sight at winter fairs and fêtes through central and southern France.
 
4. Onion soup
 
If you feel like you're about to have a heart attack at the sound of some of these dishes, a slightly lighter option is the classic French onion soup, which is topped with a slice of bread and plenty of grated cheese.
 
The soup is a delicious winter warmer and the cheese just makes it better. In some places they stir in the grated cheese, in others the cheese topped crouton is toasted to make a little gratin on top.
 
If you're really dedicated, you can get your own special Raclette grill. Photo: DepositPhotos
 
5. Gratin dauphinoise
 
Speaking of gratin, this very hearty potato dish sometimes qualifies.
 
Traditionally made with potatoes, milk and cream, it's possible to add cheese for a gratinated top. It's usually served as a side dish, often accompanying lamb, but if you add the cheese it becomes a meal in its own right.
 
6. Raclette
 
Controversial addition this, as many people say that it's actually Swiss, not French. But it's very widely eaten in France, so you will certainly encounter it, particularly in the eastern part of country. Also it's delicious, so why wouldn't we include it?
 
The name refers to both the cheese and the dish, which varies from place to place but is generally cold meats, potatoes and sometimes pickles topped with the melted raclette. You can buy a special raclette pan for your home if you feel your arteries can take it, otherwise just melt it under the grill.
 

Member comments

  1. Now wait just a minute here!! Fondu doesn’t just have cheese, it also has Kirch and white wine in it!! Without which it becomes abit indigestible

  2. It’s Gratin Dauphinois (Masc) not Dauphinoise. Also for the purists, the Gratin Dauphinois does not have Cheese whereas the Gratin Savoyard does–although the French do tend to still call it Dauphinois, especially if they do not live in those areas. 55 years later and at the other end of the world and I still miss my Dad’s (Dauphinois) and my Mom’s (Savoyard). A very simple dish yet so good!

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.