chunks of tender potato, bacon, onion, cream, thyme, onion, white wine, and an almost impossible to find French cheese, Reblochon, a "stinky" washed-rind cheese from the region of France bordering Italy and Switzerland called the Rhone-Alpes.
According to purists, this cannot be called a tartiflette unless it has the Reblochon cheese baked on it. I took that as a personal challenge to find this stupid cheese...that was until I found it at $45/lb in Seattle. Um...yeah...not going to happen. So what to substitute?
After reading numerous message boards regarding possible substitutes, each with purists posting and admonishing that NO CHEESE CAN BE SUBSTITUTED, I found a place where there were several suggestions: Gruyere, Super Sharp Cheddar, Swiss. But I wanted a cheese that would melt into the potatoes and other complimentary ingredients rather than forming a crust on top. I took the characteristics of the Reblochon - minus the stinky part - and decided that Brie would be my choice.
Call me odd, but after pondering a bit, I really wanted that stinky characteristic in there, too, for as close to authentic as possible. So now the search was on for something to augment the Brie for the stink factor.
Further research on washed-rind cheeses led me to a page with many options, Raclette, Taleggio, Epoisses, Limburger, Muenster. Armed with a list of possible stinky alternatives, I headed to the store with the best possible cheese selection. Raclette? Nope. Taleggio? Nope. Epoisses? Nope. Limburger? Yes. Muenster? Yes. I picked up the Muenster and it just didn't seem right. Too firm and no smell at all. That left...Limburger. Are you like me and think of Pepe Le Pew and the Limburger cheese and its horrible stench? I picked up the package and put it to my nose and it did not disappoint. Standing in the store, I just started laughing, loud! I could smell that stuff through all of the packaging! The girls were with me and they both wanted a snort, too, and both swore it was GROSS!! Into the cart it went along with a wheel of baby Brie. A few other ingredients were tossed into the cart and we were on our way to some cheesy, oozy goodness!
Preparation was uneventful until I got to the Limburger. (you saw that coming, right?) I peeled the package off and it was DEFINITELY smelly. I sliced a piece and tasted it and I'll be darned if it didn't taste like it smelled. (HA! Surprise, right?) I cut the cheese in half, thinking half would be good. After trimming the rind and smelling that stuff, I just couldn't put all of it in the dish with all the other amazing ingredients. I ended up using 1/4 of the piece and mixing it in with the Brie, hoping it would blend well and not stick out.
Into the oven it went, steaks went onto the grill, and green beans were prepped for steaming. Dinner went onto plates and I overheard Faith and Lily arguing,
Faith: Lily! Did you fart?
Faith: Yes you did! It stinks!
Me: Girls, it's the cheese.
Good times in gastronomy!
The steak was good but THE POTATOES! The amazing flavor of the cheese melted into the wine/bacon/onion goodness was beyond compare! Mopping up the melty goodness with some crusty sourdough bread was heaven! The steak was superfluous at this point. I would have been happy to eat potatoes, bread and possibly beans (just for the health aspect.) It was a thumbs up from everyone for dinner!
The Limburger was so strong and I likely won't use it again, although I've paid for it and probably should find something to do with it, but you can GUARANTEE that we'll be eating this again very soon.
The recipe (from this website)
TartifletteRecipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller
50 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
100 g. lightly smoked bacon cut into matchsticks
125 ml dry white wine
6 waxy potatoes, such as desiree, cut into small cubes (leaving skin on)
100 ml pouring cream
250 g. Reblochon or any other washed-rind cheese
Fresh thyme, for decoration (optional)
1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat oil in large deep-sided frying pan, add onion and bacon and cook over low heat until onion is soft (5-10 minutes), add wine and cook until evaporated (2-3 minutes). Add potato and cook until tender (10-15 minutes), then season to taste. Add cream, cook for 1 minute and remove from heat.
2.Lay half the potato mixture in an 8 cup-capacity casserole or two 4 cup-capacity baking dishes, scatter over half the cheese, then repeat with remaining potato mixture and cheese. Bake until dish is golden and bubbling and potato is tender (30-45 minutes). Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread.