One dish that was sure to make a hit, when I cooked for seven (4 children, my father, husband and I) was scalloped potatoes. Since I lived on a farm five miles from the nearest store, it was good that no exotic ingredients were needed.
I’d quickly layer thinly sliced potatoes into a baking dish. Then I covered it with a sauce made of butter, flour, milk, onions, salt and pepper and a heap of shredded Velvetta. Sometimes I’d add leftover ham to make it a main dish. Into the oven it went. When the top browned nicely and a knife could be inserted, it was ready to serve.
After the casserole was dished up, family members began making their own modifications. One meticulously removed the onions. Another doused it with ketchup, while one cleverly spread it over less desirable, must-eat vegetables.
I’ve not served this humble fare for many years. So imagine my surprise, when I ran onto a French bistro dish called Tartiflette. (A very good photo recipe here.) The dish looked much like my scalloped potatoes of the 50s. Of course, the French had jazzed it up with bacon, caramelized onion, wine and a regional cheese called Reblochon (ruh-bloe-SHAWN). A good substitute is French Preferes des Montagnes.
I explored further and found that Tartiflette is a classic bistro dish served in the French Alps. Apparently, the hearty combo of potatoes, onions, and cheese helps warms the innards after a vigorous day on the slopes.
But here on the slopes of Art Hill the traditional cheese is unavailable. Nor is the unpasteurized cheese sold in most US groceries. While purist insist on the traditional cheese, the more pragmatic claim a good Brie can be substituted without harm.
I ran my Tartiflette by my friend Tracy, who had eaten the real thing in the Alps. She sniffed it. Wallowed it about in here mouth for a few moment, as though she were trying to recall a taste from the past. Yes, she detected a difference. Even so, she declared my version acceptable by comparison with the real thing. What a relief! I’m always grateful for those who confirm my kitchen efforts. : -)
Served with a crisp, green salad and a glass of dry, white wine, Tartiflette is all you need for a satisfying Alpine meal. hen I served the dish to my adult children, there was a hint of deja vu.
One asked, “Didn’t you use to make this when we were kids?”
I smiled and nodded.
“This is really good,” he said, “but I think I like the one with Velvetta’s better.” He was just kidding, of course. . . I think.