Monday, January 31, 2011

Recette de la tartiflette.

Since we've officially hit high-cheese-season, I've had several requests from friends and readers alike for our (read: Dan's) tartiflette recipe. This recipe serves about 4, or 2 hungry people looking for leftovers. For convenience I've provided both the US and metric units...

1.2 kilograms/2.65 pounds of potatoes
400 grams/about 1 pound of lardon or diced bacon (We use a smoked lardon.)
4 medium sized yellow onions
500 grams/1 pound of reblochon cheese or other gooey cow's milk cheese
2 - 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
1 bottle of Apremont wine or other dry white wine (preferably from the Savoie region of France)
3 T of butter - 2 T for sautéing onions (or equivalent amount of olive oil if you're using that instead), and 1 T for greasing the pan


1. Pour yourself, and anyone who is assisting you, a glass of Apremont. Sip sip sip. Repeat as necessary. Also gather up your ingredients.

2. If you don't like skin on your potatoes, peel them, but it's not a must (we do not peel ours). Then boil them until a knife comes out cleanly (about 30 minutes-ish). If your oven takes forever to heat up like ours, preheat it now to 230°C/450°F (or to number "7" or "8" if you also have a weird-non-temperature-telling-oven like we do).

3. When the potatoes are done, drain the pot and sit aside to cool naturally while you do the rest of the prep work.

4. Slice the onions and saute in olive oil or butter (your choice, we like olive oil) for a few minutes.

5. Add the lardon/bacon to the sautéing onions, and continue to saute for a few more minutes.

6. Next take a casserole or gratin dish, and butter the inside of it.

7. Slice the potatoes into thick slices (1/2 inch-ish). Take half of the potato slices and line the bottom of the casserole dish with them (it will be more than one layer thick).

8. Add 2/3 of the onion/lardon mixture as the next layer in the casserole dish.

9. Add the remaining potato slices on top of the onion/lardon layer.

10. Add the last 1/3 of the onion/lardon mixture on top of that.

11. Spread the crème fraiche on top of that top layer.

12. {Cheese rind rant alert} Now onto the cheese: you're either an "I eat the rind" kind of person, or you're not. Almost one year of living in France has NOT made me an "I eat the rind" kind of girl, so when Dan makes this he is kind enough to remove the rind for me before baking. Sidenote: He has recently learned that using a wire cheese cutter is the easiest way (so far) of removing said cheese rind, and wastes the least amount of cheese. However, you are more than welcome to use the rind if you're that kind of person. I'm not judging. (I'm judging a little.) {End cheese rind rant alert} Either way, it's at this stage that rind or rindless you should halve the cheese lengthwise and put it on top of the potatoes. Put it more towards the middle so it all doesn't bubble and spill over the edges (lesson learned by moi).

{I'm pretty sure the cheese spilled over the sides on this one, as mentioned above. Just halving it and putting it closer to the middle is what we do now...}

13. Finishing touch: Pour a little Apremont or dry white wine over the whole delicious mixture (we use half a glass) before putting in the oven.

14. Place in the oven, and bake until the cheese has melted and it's browned a bit. This usually takes about 20-25 minutes. I like to leave it in longer because I like when it's really brown on top. Eat while it's warm.

PS - Traditional sides: Tartiflette is supposed to be served with a green salad and offerings of cornichons/pickles. It should also be served with Apremont or some other type of dry white wine from the Savoy region, however any dry white will do if you have trouble procuring some from Haute Savoie. Bon ap!

Great, now I'm hungry.

A la prochaine friends...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mannn...Happy Birthday.

A big, happy, 2 day belated 61st birthday to my dad, the man known to many as Big Mitch. (I'm not late in wishing it, just in posting it...I'm not THAT bad.) Can't wait to hear your non-indoor-compatible-football-coaching-voice in April on the silent tram in Geneva or at the tranquil Sunday market...Mannn, Thoiry ain't gonna know what hit it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We got our lard'ON.

We had our second installment of tartiflette night on Friday, and I'd say it was a cheese-y success! 10 people, 2 small children, 3 tartiflettes, 1 vegan tartiflette, one large salad, a galette des rois (I know, we're a bit late for a King's cake), Movenpick ice cream and some delicious homemade oatmeal raisin cookies...oh yeah, and a butt-ton of booze.

Last time we weren't sure how many tartiflette's to make, and we decided upon two...however we felt that it went rather quickly and that people were shy about taking seconds (and thirds) because of this. We didn't mess around this time - three tartiflette's were made by Master Tartiflette Chef Dan...

...and the leftovers made a fantastic recovery meal the next afternoon.

For dessert, we celebrated a (belated) french tradition: the galette des rois. As many of you may already know, at the official end of the Christmas season in France, a galette des rois is served (King's cake). The cake is usually filled with either an almond paste or an apple filling, and a small toy is baked into the cake. The person who receives this slice (and doesn't choke or break a tooth on said "lucky" toy) is pronounced King for the day (or is it week?), and chooses a partner to "rule" with them. In order to make this fair, the youngest person at the party is supposed to get under the table and tap people on the knee, and this is the order in which people are allowed to choose their slice of cake. My favorite little resident viking took to the task (with her Dad to help out), and soon a king was crowned...

[Viking hat not shown.]

Doo-dooo-dooo-doooooooooh! All hail King Marc...King of the paper gold-foil crown...

....King of the...leeks?

The night ended early for us as the majority of our dinner guests were going skiing early the next morning to various Alpes locals, but for those of us who were not, the usual happened.

We tried to defend our brains from zombies.
Until about 3:30 AM.
I actually don't remember if we succeeded.

A la prochain friends...

Monday, January 24, 2011

It was beginning to look a lot like springtime... for the Chrismukkah tree that was still up and decorated until this past Thursday. Yes, last week the temps were in the low 50s, the grass was getting greener, the magpies with their strange tail feathers were out and singing, and my fig trees are (still) all kinds of confused.

However, just as I started not only getting used to the strange weather, but actually liking it, mother nature's mood swing righted itself, and we're back to cold temperatures with the occasional angry winds (but still no snow). How about this momma nature: winter, or spring, you get ONE. It's a very important choice. Because if I have to explain to my snowboard that it's services won't be needed for the remainder of this year, and we'll have to review his contract in the fall, I don't want to have to go back on it.

(Don't make me look stupid Mrs. Nature.)

A la prochain friends...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Oh look, they've dressed him in a little suit!"

Day 2 in Brussels: We got up early (for me) and headed down to partake in one of my favorite pastimes - flea market lurking.

It was considerably more windy on the second day of our trip, which made for an interesting and slightly dangerous time at les puces, because fragile and heavy things alike were flying off of tables, hitting people in the head, and then shattering everywhere. So much so that I wanted to yell "Opa!" everytime we heard a crash...

This les puces had a very different vibe than my beloved Plainpalais, in that it seemed like the vendors were all working together, like they were "pulling their tips" so to speak. It seemed like there were a couple of managers who held the money, and these managers each had a section and would check up on the vendors. (I don't know if this is true, but it's what it seemed like.) It also appeared this way because it seemed like each vendor had a department - one guy seemed to have all of the chandeliers, another seemed to have all the furniture, a few close together had the majority of the kitchen stuff...which to me makes it not quite as fun to search through boxes (though it does streamline the whole process a bit). It was a good market, but my heart still belongs to Plainpalais...

We then went to wandering a bit, and found what ended up being the best frites we had the whole trip. If you go to Brussels, the guy sells them at la Chapelle from a stand. We loved it with tartar sauce...

Our next stop was for a drink at Leffe. We both were disappointed with our time here because it ended up being extremely hoitey-toitey. And our server sucked. I mean he was just terrible. And rude. Leffe didn't feel like a Belgian beer experience, but like going to a boring, white-walled, expensive restaurant where your server thinks you just purposely ran over his dog with a steam roller. I understand everybody has bad days, but it's still no excuse to be rude to people who are being very nice to you. The good news is that you can drink Leffe anywhere in the city, so spend your money elsewhere...

And elsewhere we went... go see Manneken Pis again! And look! They've dressed him up in a little suit!

It turns out there was a marching band playing in front of him earlier in the day, and the organizers dressed him up in a matching suit, and gave him a little trumpet.

This area - in and around Grand Place and Sablon - were my favorites to hang out in during our weekend. There were plenty of cool little places to eat and drink, lots of people around, and lots of beautiful architecture to take in. There was also plenty of gaufre. What is gaufre you ask?

This is gaufre. Think little waffles. With whatever toppings you want on it. (You can also get them plain.) I don't know if it's a Belgian thing or a Brussels thing, but all I do know is that it's delicious.

My eyes were bigger than my tummy when I ordered mine - which as you can see is covered in hot chocolate, whipped cream, strawberries and bananas...needless to say, Dan had to finish most of mine...

Did you know that gaufre makes you thirsty? Well, it's true. So guess where we went next? Back to Delirium Cafe! Yeah!

The place was packed when we got there, and we were lucky enough to grab the last beer barrel table in the place...

[Delirium tremens and Rodenbach Grand Cru...]

[Kwak, young gouda sprinkled in celery salt, and Pink Killer, which is made from grapefruits...]

[Honey beer - yumma.]

Dan drank a coconut beer out of a coconut...

And with that we bid Adieu to "Delirium Cafe." It was a sad good-bye, but we know we'll be back...

Lucky for us, all those little alleyways that lead you to Delirium are lousy with restaurants, all of which seem to be serving similiar or the same menus, so we picked one with a nice big awning and sat down for some more moules and frites.

And of course we couldn't say good-bye to Brussels in the morning without having seen Grand Place at night!

The following morning we had an hour or so to make a last minute trip out for souvenirs and frites for the train, and of course it was the first bit of sun we saw the whole weekeend...

See ya, Brussels! We had a fantastic time and can't wait to see more of you on our next trip out there.

A la prochain friends...