Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tartiflette with Brie and Bacon

aka the "potato bacon brie sex thing"
Yes, we're back ! This post brought to you by fortuitous shopping choices and a healthy dose of Google :)

Fortuitous Shopping Choice #1 : the boy has developed a rather delightful habit. He has decreed that anytime we hit the cheese counter at Russo's (or any other place with a good variety of fine cheeses) that we must try a new cheese...or new to him, anyway. Last week's selection was a rather pungent Brie de Meaux - and by "pungent" I mean "way too strong to eat on a cracker for a cheese virgin".  A little too much even for a committed cheese addict like back to the fridge it went, vague thoughts of jamming, pastry wrapping and baking trailing behind.

Fortuitous Shopping Choice #2 - 5lb bags of potatoes were "buy one get one free" this week at Stop + Shop. I mean, why wouldn't you get the free one ? Potatoes never go to waste around here !

Which brings us, of course, to Google. Turns out you can find all sorts of interesting things when you type "Brie" and "potato" into Google. The one that immediately grabbed my interest, of course, also involved the words "bacon" and "creamy". Seriously, does that not just scream "Culinary Orgasm" ? The website I ended up on was for Waitrose, which is apparently a grocery chain in the UK. The website has a really great-looking recipe section which I plan to explore thoroughly.

Thus was my introduction to the tartiflette. Tartiflette is the most lovely French dish of potatoes, cheese, bacon (or lardons) and cream...that I had never heard of in my life. Why have I been denied this deliciousness ? It's like the best scalloped potatoes you've ever had in your life, except by invoking the words "scalloped potatoes" I fear I may scare off people of a certain age that were tormented by Betty Crocker boxed monstrosities in their youths. Friends, do not fear the Tartiflette...this is truly Culinary Orgasm material. It was a bit tricky translating the Brit measurements (and then of course adjusting the proportions as needed), but your intrepid blogger persevered...and thus I present my version of this dish.

A note on the cheese - traditional Tartiflette calls for Reblochon cheese, which is tricky to find (I may search it out now for comparison purposes, though). Brie - particularly Brie de Meaux - works beautifully. Do use the entire Brie, including the rind - it's perfectly edible, and is perfect in this dish as it just melts into the cream. I was a tiny bit short of the required amount of Brie, so I threw in a bit of one of my all time favorite cheeses - Sottocenere al Tartufo, or truffle cheese. I knew the truffle cheese would play very well with Brie (exhibit A : the ethereal fondue from Sprigs, recreated here ), but this exceeded even my expectations - it was sooooo good with the potatoes and bacon that I am calling for a tiny bit of truffle oil in the recipe (only a tiny bit though...truffle oil abuse is a terrible crime). If you don't have or don't like truffle oil, by all means leave it out - this dish will still absolutely rock without it.

One other note on the Brie...a ripe Brie is super hard to cut as it's so runny. If yours is lusciously oozing all over the cutting board, do yourself a favor and stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so before you try and cut it. Way easier !

We served this with ham and spinach, but really it would make a lovely meal all by itself..happy cheesy potato bacon goodness !

Tartiflette with Brie and Bacon
Adapted (and translated) from Waitrose
Serves 6

2 tsp vegetable oil
8 oz bacon (thick cut if possible), cut into small cubes
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 good-sized sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup (8 oz) heavy or whipping cream
1 cup (8 oz) whole milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp truffle oil (optional)
Fresh ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed well (but not peeled), thinly sliced
9 oz Brie, cut into small slices or cubes

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly grease a 2 quart ovenproof dish.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon 4-5 minutes until beginning to brown. Add the onion, and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the onion starts to brown as well.

Chop the thyme leaves, reserving a few to garnish. Place the thyme, cream, milk and garlic in a large pan. Bring to a simmer, add the potatoes, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon-onion mixture and the truffle oil (if using) and season with freshly ground black pepper. Spoon half the potato mixture in the base of the prepared dish, then top with half the sliced cheese. Repeat, finishing with a layer of cheese.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife and the top is golden. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving.

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