Tartiflette

28 02 2011

 

L'Eglise St. Michel in Chamonix, France

I recently returned from a fantastic two-week trip to Italy and France.  It was the perfect holiday: the architecture and scenery were stunningly beautiful and I never tire of strolling the streets of European cities, window-shopping and people watching.  And then, of course, there was the food.

We spent some time in Torino, Italy (more on that later) and then headed to Chamonix in the French Alps for a bit of skiing. The commune of Chamonix is located in the Haute-Savoie region, just across the border from Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc. The area is surrounded by mountains and has a vibrant scene in the evenings once everyone has retired from the slopes for the day.

 

Haute-Savoie specialties include excellent cheeses such as Tomme de Savoie, cured meats and wine

The cuisine of the Alps is seasonally-based and includes local wines,cured meats and fantastic cheeses such as tomme, abondance, reblochon and raclette. Dining in Chamonix is typically casual and restaurants often feature fun communal dishes like raclette (a local cheese that is melted and scraped onto potatoes), fondue (both oil-based and cheese-based) and hot stone (pierre-chaud) cooking, where slices of meat or poultry are cooked at the table on a heated stone. Onion and vegetable soups are common starters and potatoes often accompany meals.  However, my favourite local specialty was tartiflette.

Tartiflette: a Savoyard dish made with onions, potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese

Tartiflette, contrary to what I had thought, is not a tart but a dish of potatoes, onions, cream and bacon with cheese melted on top.  Honestly, with those ingredients, you could probably stick an old shoe in there and it would still be delicious!  It’s not light but after a vigorous day of outdoor winter activities, it fits the bill perfectly.

A day of vigorous activity and fresh Alpine air will work up an appetite for the rich foods of the region

In the Savoie region, reblochon is the type of cheese typically used in tartiflette.  It can be found in North America at most good cheese shops, however, if it is not available, you can substitute a tomme, fontina, raclette or brie (bearing in mind that the taste of the finished dish will be different but no less delicious).

Tartiflette

Serves 2 to 4 (it’s quite rich but if diners are very hungry, it will serve 2 – the recipe can easily be doubled)

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.

  • 6 oz. (170 grams) slab bacon, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 medium to large (about 6 oz / 170 g) yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced peeled and cooked potatoes (cut into a 1/2″ dice) – about 2 large potatoes
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 7 to 8 oz. (200 to 226 g) reblochon cheese (see above for substitutions)
  1. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon until almost crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped onion to the bacon. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked potato chunks to the skillet and stir until the mixture is combined.  Pour in the half-and-half and simmer gently on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the mixture is simmering, prepare the cheese. Slice the reblochon into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. Use a sharp knife to trim off the rind if desired (the rind is edible but it may be quite strong tasting and have a slightly gritty texture).
  5. Spoon the potato mixture into individual oven-proof dishes or one large casserole dish (if the skillet has an oven-proof handle, you can keep it in the pan if desired). Lay the sliced cheese in an even layer over the potato mixture.
  6. Place the oven rack in the top position and turn on the broiler. Broil the tartiflettes until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes (watch carefully – it can burn in an instant!)
  7. Let cool slightly and serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Serve tartiflette with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness





How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

24 11 2010

Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are a must at any holiday table.

When it comes to favourite comfort foods, mashed potatoes are near the top of my list.  They are the perfect side to serve with gravy-based dishes such as turkey and roast beef and no holiday table would be complete without them.

The great thing about potatoes (aside from being delicious) is that they are very inexpensive and readily available year-round.  I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, which is a major potato-producing region (McCain’s, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, is based there). A couple of years ago, I saw a roadside sign near Fredericton advertising 50 pounds of potatoes for $9.99 so it’s no surprise that they were a staple at our dinner table almost every night.

Potatoes may not look exciting but they are very versatile.

To make smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, here are a few tips that will ensure success:

  • Choose starchy potatoes such as Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes).  Yukon Golds also work well and have a nice buttery interior.  Avoid waxy ‘boiling’ potatoes such as fingerlings or red potatoes.
  • Cutting the potatoes into chunks will speed the cooking process.  You can peel them before cooking for a nicer presentation but sometimes I leave the skins on for texture and nutrients.
  • Use a potato ricer to ensure smooth, lump-free potatoes.  A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press and you push the cooked potatoes through tiny holes, resulting in potato strands that look like rice.  Ricers are available at most kitchen stores.  Do not use a mixer to beat them – they will become gluey.
  • Season well! Potatoes can handle a lot of salt and seasonings such as garlic, horseradish or chopped herbs (see below for more ideas).  Be sure to add butter and dairy while the potatoes are still hot so everything melts and combines easily. Add seasonings gradually and taste as you go.

Preparing Mashed Potatoes in Advance

Trying to drain and mash potatoes when you have guests waiting for dinner can be messy and cumbersome. Luckily, mashed potatoes can be prepared in advance and kept warm or re-heated. There are two methods that work well:

  1. Place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cover loosely with foil. Stir occasionally and check moisture and seasoning before serving.
  2. Cooked mashed potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to ‘Low’. Check and stir on occasion, as they can become dry around the edges.

Optional Additions

While plain mashed potatoes are a delicious on their own, they can be further enhanced with some of the following (measurements are approximate – add to taste):

  • Grated horseradish – 2 to 3 Tablespoons or to taste
  • ¼ cup of sour cream plus ½ chopped green onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Evaporated milk or regular milk can be substituted for the cream but the results will not be as creamy and rich.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 6 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into thirds
  • ½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream), heated
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • Salt, to taste
  • A large stockpot with a lid
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • Water, to cover potatoes
  • Potato ricer
  1. In a large stockpot, add potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover and bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Gently boil until potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check with a sharp knife periodically to determine tenderness.
  3. Drain cooked potatoes. Place two or three potato chunks in the potato ricer. Working over a large bowl, press potatoes through ricer. Repeat with all potatoes.
  4. Quickly add butter and cream to hot potatoes. Stir until combined and the potatoes are creamy. Add salt to taste. Add any optional seasonings and mix until incorporated.
  5. Serve with your favourite dishes such as braised short ribs, roast chicken or turkey with gravy.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

16 07 2010

Potato salad made with baby red potatoes and a mustard vinaigrette is a delicious change from mayonnaise-based salads.

I love potatoes.  I grew up in an area that was originally settled by the Irish and potatoes were the main starch that accompanied most of our meals.  I tend to think of them as a winter vegetable because they can be stored year round but new baby potatoes are a special summer treat.  They are sweet, tender and have very thin skins.  New potatoes can be prepared very simply – just steam or boil them and top with a bit of salt and pepper.  They also are great in potato salads and don’t require a lot of work to prepare.

For a great mayonnaise-free potato salad that is full of zesty flavour, check out my recipe on Suite 101.com: Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Potato Latkes

15 12 2009

Tonight is the 5th night of Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of lights. Potato latkes are traditionally eaten during the eight days of festivities but you certainly don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them.  You can sometimes find them on menus at delis but they’re very easy to make at home. The potatoes and onions can be grated by hand or with a food processor. Latkes are best eaten fresh out of the pan – they don’t really re-heat very well.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Potato Latkes

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 8 large latkes

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • Neutral oil such as safflower, for pan frying latkes
  • Sour cream or apple sauce, to garnish (optional)
  1. Grate potatoes and onion and place in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit for five minutes.  
  2. After five minutes, use your hands to wring any liquid from the shredded potatoes and discard the liquid (you can also do this by pressing the potato mixture in a colander).
  3. Add egg and flour to the potato mixture and use your hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, add oil so that is about 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in the pan. Heat on high until ready to fry (to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until a small piece of potato dropped in sizzles and turns golden).  Be sure to watch the oil carefully!
  5. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop out some potato mixture.  Carefully place in the oil and flatten slightly with a spatula. Repeat scooping the mixture but make sure the latkes are not crowded in the pan (you will likely have to do two batches).
  6. Let the latkes cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.  Carefully turn over with a spatula and cook the other side.  When the pancakes are dark golden and cooked through, remove from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. 
  7. Season with additional salt to taste and serve with sour cream or applesauce, as desired.

Happy Hanukkah and Enjoy!

A Potato Latke topped with sour cream.





Farmer’s Market Report – July 6th, 2009

6 07 2009

 

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been to the farmer’s market due to a very inconvenient city worker’s strike here in Toronto that temporarily shut down some of the markets.  However, it appears that the affected markets are going to re-open this week and luckily there are others that weren’t shuttered at all.  Good thing, because our summers are extremely short and there is a limited amount of time to get the great fresh produce that our local farmers have to offer.

Despite the unseasonably cool and damp weather this spring/summer in Southern Ontario, I was excited to see that the summer harvest has begun.  Strawberries were the main attraction and there is still a lot of asparagus available.  The very first cherries and zucchini are showing up and peas are in full swing.  Green beans and tiny baby potatoes were also abundant.  Fresh lettuces, beets, green onions, various peppers and a variety of carrots were available as well.  There is easily enough available now that you could design a menu around strictly local produce that would offer great variety and abundance.  Such a nice change from a few months ago!

Here are some simple suggestions for using what’s in season now:

Strawberries

Undoubtedly the star of the markets right now, strawberries are at their peak and don’t require too much dressing up to taste good.  Slice a few, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. You can also mix them into some vanilla yogurt.  I enjoy a few strawberries sliced on top of my cereal in the mornings and it only takes a short time to whip up some biscuits and jam for a weekend breakfast.  Stay tuned in the days to come for some new strawberry recipes I’ve been working on. 

Asparagus

Asparagus will be nearing the end of it’s season soon so it’s time to take advantage of this seasonal delight before they’re gone. I’ve posted quite a few recipes this year including a crustless quiche that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch, asparagus orzo, grilled asparagus spears with goat cheese and prosciutto and a divine roasted asparagus lasagna that is fantastic (if a bit rich!).  Check out the archives at epicurious.com for many more great asparagus ideas.

New Potatoes

Although stored potatoes are a winter staple, the first new ones of the summer have a flavour and texture that is more sweet and delicate than older potatoes.  They require little embellishment: just boil or steam and serve with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. Or make a classic vinaigrette and toss with small boiled potatoes and fresh green beans for a refreshing and simple side dish. Keep it simple and save elaborate potato recipes for fall and winter!

Peas

Fresh new peas are so sweet that they bear no resemblance to the the canned kind (or even the frozen ones that I use through the winter).  Simply boil until just cooked through (NOT to mush!) and finish with a bit of butter, salt and pepper – yum!  If you are able to find ones that are very small, they don’t even need to be cooked before adding to dishes such as pasta.  A couple of months ago, Food and Wine magazine featured a pasta with asparagus, sage and peas that was delicious.  I added a bit of chopped ham to add some protein.  It also takes advantage of the fresh asparagus and herbs that are available now. Click here for the recipe: Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas.

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Enjoy!

Trish





Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

8 05 2009

 

Wild Leeks - also known as ramps - at the market

Wild Leeks - also known as ramps - at the market

 

The season for wild leeks (aka ramps) is in full swing at the moment.  These delicious, pungent plants taste like a mix of onion and garlic.  They are becoming increasingly popular as cooks discover their unique flavour and versatility.  Ramps can be cooked in countless ways including in soups, roasted, grilled, sautéed or pickled.  They won’t be available much longer so seek them out soon if you’d like to give them a try.  They can be found throughout Eastern Canada and the U.S. and are very popular in West Virginia.  Check with farmer’s market or independent grocers – large supermarket chains are not likely to have them.

This gratin is a great way to try ramps for the first time.  They add a unique flavour to the dish but green onions and garlic can be used if you can’t find ramps.

Click here to check out the recipe on Suite 101:  Potato and Wild Leek Gratin.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

Potato and Wild Leek Gratin





A Valentine’s Day Menu

12 02 2009

istock_000002801671xsmallValentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year which is great for enjoying the evening with a loved one (or a group of friends if you are feeling sociable or are unattached). However, going to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth.  Struggling to get a reservation at your favourite place then dealing with the crowds and overworked staff makes entertaining at home look like an attractive option.  Save the restaurant visit for the following week, when the crowds have died down and you can really enjoy yourself.  A home cooked meal is also a great idea if you’re watching your budget.  The following dishes can be made for a fraction of what a restaurant would charge.

If you’re staying in, an elegant menu is in order.  The main dish (ribs or osso buco), potato and pudding recipes are designed to make four servings so you can either invite some friends to join you, cut the recipes in half or enjoy leftovers the next day. Half bottles of sparkling wines and red wines are usually available if you’re serving two people and don’t want to go overboard.

 

A Valentine’s Day Menu for 2 or 4 people

Champagne or sparkling wine

Smoked Salmon Spread with crackers OR a Selection of Freshly Shucked Oysters

Scallop Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Braised Short Ribs  OR  Osso Buco with Tomato Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

A bold red wine, such as Sangiovese, Barolo or Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany the main course

Individual Chocolate Puddings

Ice Wine Cocktails with a selection of cheeses

Chocolate Truffles (purchased from a good chocolate shop)

 

Bon Appétit and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Scallop Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette makes an elegant starter course for a romantic Valentine's Day meal

Scallop Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette makes an elegant starter course for a romantic Valentine's Day meal