Savoyard potato gratin with bacon
For this dish, choose boiling rather than baking potatoes – and preferable a farmers’ market or organic variety. As for the bacon, if you cannot find slab bacon, use thick-sliced.
The question of the cheese is trickier. Reblochon comes from the French side of the Alps and is a soft, pungent cheese with an orange-colored rind. It has apparently been banned for import to the States because it is made with unpasteurized milk. It is still possible to obtain – various web sites offer it for sale, although it comes with a hefty price tag.
If you would prefer to substitute a different cheese, here is a list of possible choices, in order of preference: raclette, fontina, jarlsberg, comté, gruyère, monterey jack. You may also substitute a local cheese, for example cheddar, but the result, however delicious, will not resemble a true tartiflette.
1-1/4 pounds (500 g.) potatoes
1 tsp. sea salt or regular salt
2 medium onions
1/4 pound (100 g.) bacon, preferably in one thick strip
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 branch fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound (200 g.) reblochon or a similar cheese
Rinse the potatoes but do not peel them. Place them in a large pot of cold water. Add the sea salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes – until the potatoes are almost but not quite cooked through. You want them to be sufficiently al dente to hold their shape and not fall apart when you peel and slice them.
Gently pour the potatoes into a colander to drain, and then return them to your large pot. Cover with cold water and let stand for 10 minutes. This will make them easier to peel.
While the potatoes are cooling, peel and mince the onions. Remove any rind from the bacon and slice it into into lardons – pieces about 1/4 inch (3/4 cm) wide.
Now peel the potatoes, using your fingers or a paring knife. The skins should slip off easily. Slice the potatoes crosswise into pieces about 1/3 inch (1 cm) thick.
Clean and dry your large pot, add the olive oil and place it over a medium flame. Add the onions, bacon and thyme. Stir with a wooden spatula and cook for about 5 minutes. When the onions have wilted and the bacon is starting to brown – but before it gets thoroughly browned! – add the potato slices. Stir very gently. Cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and add the white wine. Stir gently.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F, 205 C).
Butter a medium-sized baking dish. Transfer the potatoes to the baking dish. Slice the cheese – not too thinly, about 1/5 inch (5 mm) thick – and place the slices over the potatoes. Bake 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Serves 3-4.
For a vegetarian version, simply omit the bacon.