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
Peel the potatoes and boil them until they are almost but not quite cooked through. You want them to be sufficiently al dente to hold their shape.
Drain the potatoes. While they 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.
When the potatoes have cooled enough for easy handling, slice them crosswise.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F, 205 C).
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, bacon and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the potato slices, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the white wine. Cook for a couple more minutes, until most of the wine is absorbed.
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.