I mean, it’s a no brainer, but how it wasn’t invented any earlier and why we didn’t invent it is beyond me. Anyway, nobody panic, it’s here now and that’s the main thing. And just in case you’re interested, Tartiflette was dreamt up sometime in the 80s by the marketeers of the Union Interprofessional Reblochon – that’s the cheese used in the dish you see, and it does very well in the ski areas of its native alpine habitat, appealing to those with ‘healthy’ appetites. Having lived and worked in this neck of the woods myself, I can confirm that of all the variations of melted cheese the mountains have to offer, Tartiflette is one of the most justifiable - trust me on this, I took my research into this area very seriously!
Now, I can’t bring myself to say there’s ‘a twist’ to the version I currently serve on the menu, so let’s refer to it as a ‘complimentary adaptation’: I have replaced half the potato, with Jerusalem artichokes. Why? Because I love Jerusalem artichokes and they go very well with the other elements in the dish I serve the Tartiflette with, adding an earthiness and a “what’s that?” nuttiness, not dissimilar in flavour to truffle, in my opinion. On that note, Jerusalem artichokes are dead easy to grow, so you’d be wise to buy a few extra and shove them in a tub of compost for this time next year. They grow like sunflowers and will happily do their own thing, all but indefinitely, if you don’t get around to digging them up ever.
I serve these individually as a side dish, but you could of course have it as a main, although you might want to consider something on the side, such as a green salad with a nice sharp vinaigrette, to counteract the cream and cheese.
8 x fist sized potatoes, an all-rounder like Maris Piper
400ml double cream
500g Jerusalem artichokes (choose the largest you can find for easy slicing)
2 x tennis ball sized onions
1 x fat clove of garlic, crushed
250g x smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
1 x 220g Reblochon cheese, or an equivalent – soft and creamy with a washed rind
All of the elements of this dish are cooked separately and then layered together, so:
Chop the bacon or pancetta into small pieces (the packs of lardons sold by most supermarkets are too big and chunky for this as they lack finesse), fry the bacon pieces in a hot pan until browned and crispy. Remove to one side leaving the bacon fat in the frying pan.
Slice the onions thinly, and use the bacon fat to fry them with the crushed garlic until soft and browning, but not crispy.
Peel the potatoes and leave them whole. Place in a pan of cold water with a pinch of salt and bring it up to the boil over a medium heat, keep the water rolling but don’t boil furiously. The aim here is to cook the potatoes to about 90% done. (100% wouldn’t matter but you’ll find they break up more readily when you come to slicing them if you do.) Drain and leave to cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut into slices 3 - 4mm wide.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a gentle simmer for the Jerusalem artichokes.
Peel the artichokes and drop each one into a bowl of acidulated water to stop discolouration– that is, cold water with a good old squirt of lemon juice in it.
When you’ve peeled all of them, take each one and slice it 3 or 4mm wide, putting them back into the water after each one.
Once you’ve done, add all the slices into the simmering water and blanch them for 5 or 6 minutes, checking with the tip of a knife – they should feel just like potato when its cooked. Drain in a colander.
Slice the cheese as thinly as it is humanly possible to slice a soft cheese.
So now it’s just a case of layering everything in your serving dish, start with a mixed layer of potato and artichoke in equal amounts, then sprinkle on a few bits of bacon, and the same with the fried onion, add a slice or two of cheese depending on what shape you managed to cut it. Repeat this process to fill the dish, but aim for at least three layers and to finish with cheese on the top.
Top the whole lot up with double cream, pour in as much as the dish will take, the 400ml listed in the ingredients is probably overly generous. Grind over a little black pepper, you could even add a sprinkling of thyme leaves if you were feeling that way inclined, then bake in the oven for 20 mins at 200⁰C until golden and bubbling, and probably splurging over the sides.
It will remain like molten lava for a while after you take it out of the oven, don’t say I didn’t tell you!