Many of us these days are going to the grocery store and coming back with a lot of one thing. Me? I bought too many potatoes. So many potatoes, in fact, that I found myself Googling “oh no I have too many potatoes,” which isn’t even a question. I made the usual suspects: hash in the morning, potato salad at lunch, and smashed potatoes with protein at night. Still, I had more potatoes. The bag seemed infinite. I began to suspect that it was cursed. Once I realized there were dark forces at play, my plan was to give the bag away to a friend I didn’t like that much. This would free me of the demonic bag and its burden, although I might have to pay the price for damning somebody else. No matter. I would have my freedom again, and I was willing to trade my humanity for it. Problem is my friend bailed at the last second and I was stuck with the bag again. Rats.
One of the things that came up in my potato Google quest was tartiflette, a French dish made with lardon (that’s bacon, but as a food writer I’m legally required to call it lardon), onion, potatoes, and Reblochon cheese. You probably won’t find Reblochon cheese anywhere in the States. It’s made from raw cow’s milk, traditionally aged around 50 days, which is far short of the FDA’s required aging time to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria. Hell, 60 days might not even be enough. In short, Reblochon is a gamble, y’all.
But what is it? It’s a semi-soft cheese made in the Alpine region of Savoy. It looks gooey and delicious, and I’m told that it is creamy and nutty. I’m struggling with the authenticity of making tartiflette without it, as it seems Reblochon is the only thing that separates this dish from, say, a gratin or scalloped potato casserole. There are a bunch of different French gratins differentiated by seemingly pedantic regional substitutions, so can we call this tartiflette without using Reblochon? I think if you substitute a comparable cheese like Gruyère, Fontina, or even a Port Salut, you’ve done honorably.
Since I already omitted Reblochon cheese, I decided to also take some more liberties with my tartiflette. Traditionally, the onions and lardon get reduced with white wine. Instead, I made an agrodolce with vinegar, hot sauce, and honey. A quick agrodolce is a great way to impart strong flavor to onions. It’s acidic, sweet, and spicy, and whenever I can, I try to sneak onion agrodolce into breakfast hash or as a complement to a steak dish. Adding sweet and sour to savory is never a bad idea. I’m sure there are a ton of purists who will say this isn’t a tartiflette, but right now I don’t care. I’m making do with what I’ve got.
- 6 large red skin potatoes
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons (small cubes or strips)
- 1 medium onion, split in half and sliced into half moons
- ¼ cup pear vinegar (white vinegar will do just fine)
- 1 Tbsp. Sriracha or hot sauce of your choosing
- 1 tsp. honey
- 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, cut into long strips
- 4 oz. Fontina cheese, cut into long strips
Fill a large pot about halfway with water and add the red skin potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a knife. Drain and let cool.
Once cool, peel each potato with a paring knife, then slice into rounds about 1/4" thick. Set aside.
Get a saucepan hot on medium-high heat, then add your bacon lardons. Stir until the fat is rendered and the bacon is dark but still fatty. Remove half of the grease. Add the onions and cook over high heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are brown. Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to medium. Now add the hot sauce and a quick squirt of honey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the mixture glazed. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dot some butter on the bottom of a cast iron skillet or small casserole dish. Now add a layer of sliced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyère cheese. Now spread the lardon and onion agrodolce on top. Next, add another layer of potatoes and salt and pepper. Add the Fontina cheese. You can smother the top with as much extra cheese as you see fit. Bake for 25 minutes.
Note: I layered the potatoes, bacon-agrodolce mixture, and cheese with a casserole mindset, but you could also add the sliced potatoes into the pan of cooked lardon and onion, then season with salt and pepper while flipping and cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Food is always better when the ingredients have time to mix and incorporate one another’s flavors. Check out my Instagram page to follow along with the making of this and other recipes.