Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cheese Louise...I'm off to Switzerland!

Tomorrow I leave for Switzerland for a two week ski vacation in the Alps. Man I love saying that! I think I'll say it again. Tomorrow I leave for Switzerland for a two week ski vacation in the Alps!!! Actually, I had the opportunity to say the same thing last year around this time, and tomorrow I'll be returning to visit my friend Vreni.

I will probably only actually ski four or five days...lift tickets are pricey. And if this week's "Power Pilates" class was any indication of my current physical condition, I'm in for deep doo-doo on the slopes. But I have several books in my suitcase and I know a great hotel in Arosa with heated, outdoor seating and giant fur blankets to cover my inert body. Après-ski can be enjoyed with or without actually skiing!

In celebration of my expedition to Switzerland, I'm going to share a couple of simple cheese recipes. Fondue, raclette and other alpine cheese meals are specialties of the northern regions of France and, of course, Switzerland. We're well past heavy cheese season here in Aix en Provence but there are mountains of snow in Arosa and I'll get to enjoy mountain cheeses until my pants pop.

The first is so simple. In fact, it's not even a recipe at all. It's merely a way to serve a wonderful, stinky, soft, cow's milk cheese called Vacherin Mont d'Or. This cheese is sold in a round spruce box and the packaging is said to give it some of it's flavor. It has an edible crust which is what makes it look so wonderful after it has been baked. And don't be afraid of the white fur that may be growing on the top...ashes, mold, fur, whatever...these are good things when it comes to cheese here in France.

Baked Mont d'Or

Take the cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before cooking it but leave it in its box. Some say you should wrap the box in tinfoil to prevent leaking. I forgot to do this and had no trouble with drips.  Dig a little hole in or score the top rind and, if you'd like, poke a couple cloves of garlic down into the cheese. Pour about 1/4 Cup (50 ml) of white Savoie wine over the top of the cheese, and pop it in the oven at 425 F (220 C). Bake it for about 20 minutes.

Serve this right in the box. Spoon it over small boiled potatoes or with thinly sliced meats. Traditionally it's also eaten with little cornichons and tiny, pickled onions. You can also treat it as a fondue and dip chunks of nice, crusty bread directly into this box of melted wonderful.

The second recipe is for tartiflette. This delectable dish uses ripe, Reblochon cheese, which is another northern cheese made from the milk of 3 different breeds of cow.


You need:
     1 ripe Reblochon cheese (buy the good stuff with the fermier green
        stamp on top.
     4 pounds of potatoes (2 kilos)
     1/2 pound (200 grams) chopped bacon or lardons
     2 chopped onions
     8 oz. cream (250 ml)
     1/4 Cup Savoie white wine (200 ml)
     salt and pepper

Slice the potatoes after boiling them until they're just firm. (I don't peel them) Place them in a greased gratin dish. Saute the bacon and onions in a bit of oil over medium heat until golden. Add the wine and let this simmer until the wine is evaporated. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the onion and bacon mixture with the potatoes. Be gentle.

Scrape the crust of the cheese wheel lightly with a fork. Cut it horizontally into two pieces and then in half. Put the cheese on top of the potatoes, crusts up, and bake at 350 F (180 C) for 30 minutes.


At this point I'm going to apologize once again for my horrific food photos and my obvious carelessness. If anybody has food photography pointers, I'm listening. (yes...obviously...clean all cream off sides of baking dish before proceeding to bake, burn and otherwise make this dish look....dirty!)

My fellow Americans.... there is one, small, teeny, weeny catch with these recipes. These are unpasteurized cheeses and have been forbidden in the U.S. since 2004. I believe some exporters are making them with pasteurized milk but I've heard the flavor is nowhere near as creamy and delicious. Read more about this American tragedy here...and then write your congressman! Or come to France and pick up your own! If any one of you is aware of a distributer of real, French, unpasteurized soft cheeses in the U.S.,  I would sure like to know about it. 

Bon Appetit!


I found these recipes in the AAGP (Anglo-American Group of Provence) newsletter last year. The article was written by Jennifer Dugdale, a woman who gives culinary tours here in English. Check out her website here.


  1. Delana, Does that mean your apartment is available for the next two weeks? JK. Have a great time in Switzerland while I imagine the cheese and don't forget to blog in your apres-ski poses.

  2. AHHHH...real cheese. It was just 3 years ago in March that I enjoyed fondue in Gruyere, Switzerland. Fond memories....Have a wonderful time!

  3. My mouth is watering and I am drooling: will have to come over to enjoy the REAL thing!

  4. Have a wonderful vacation...and of course, take tons of pics, please!

    The same travesty against buying raw milk exists here, too. It costs nearly $10 per gallon to get it on the "black market" here in the midwest.

    Those recipes look AMAZING. I am a sucker for cheese of any kind...warm or cold, white or yellow, furry, moldy, ashy or otherwise. YUM.

    Have a great time, Delana! ♥

  5. I have done plenty of water skiing, but never tried on snow. I wonder how different it is? Have a great time.Diane

  6. Cheese Louise yourself! I'm finding now that I have to live (French) life vicariously through you. Be careful on the slopes, I don't want us to get hurt.

  7. Just don't mention cheese to anyone moving from France to Costa Rica.
    I have to haunt one particular shop to see if an edible, interesting cheese has come in that week...or travel fifty kilometres up in the hills to beard the his lair if he hasn't bothered to send out the deliveries...
    And as for a roll of soft, new goats cheese retailing at six dollars equivalent which tastes like slush.....


    I am buying a couple of cows.

  8. I am so jealous! Not of the skiing, but definitely, of the cheese. Sounds heavenly! Enjoy!

  9. CHEESE! TARTIFLETTE! nom nom nom.
    Have a wonderful holiday. We'll miss you at Blogapalooza

  10. Have a great holiday and don't break a leg!

    I love Mont d'Or too, and tartiflette, and fondue (my fave), not so keen on raclette though (boring).

  11. Paulita-yes, it's empty for 2 weeks. You'll arrive when?

    Patricia-oh yes, the fondue. I can't wait. What makes cheese and bread such a perfect meal?

    LibbY- Yes, get that house sold and get over here!

    Jo-You bet I'll take pics. It's so beautiful there it's hard not to. And I'll post them while sitting under my fur robe!

    Diane-I find water skiing a lot harder on my back...and arms...and neck....and...well, you get the picture.

    Mark-I'll be very careful with us. But I did buy a little insurance policy the other day. Just in case WE have an accident.

    Fly-I imagine it's horrible finding good cheese there. I was having this cheese conversation with French friends last night. It's amazing how the French can discuss food for hours. And with 1000 types of cheese...this is really an endless conversation.

    Sherry-it is heavenly. Now I'M going to have to learn to Rumba!

    Sara-I will but I'm so bummed to be missing you guys. I want to set up another date soon, okay?

    Sarah-I agree. Raclette is my last choice...but still a choice nonetheless!

  12. Loved this post. Have a great trip to my Switzerland...don^t fall off any of my mountains.

  13. 'Heated outdoor seating and giant fur blankets' ? I would love that. Heated seatings are a superior form of civilisation, they would be appropriate also here in LA in these days. Today it was so chilly!

  14. Ooo, the dish looks amazing.
    And lucky you, to be skiing in Switzerland!


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