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
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.
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.