So the rule is only cook with wine you’d drink. To me that translates very clearly as drinking half the wine you bought to cook with before you’ve chopped your first onion. But this is what Offy’s were built for; replacing stocks that have been irresponsibly consumed. Cooking is the only solution when you have a thumb twiddling Friday off and the potential for reorganising your wardrobe seventeen times before putting it back the way you found it is too depressing a concept. Coupled with the fact that the heavens had opened quite violently on this particular Friday, it seemed the fates were aligning and asking me to make comfort food.
Tartiflette is indescribably satisfying to the senses, maybe with the exception of sight because it does look a little like something a dog would turn his nose up at. But if you replace sight with memory then you’re laughing. The nostalgic and wistful mood that overtakes when you cook and eat this kind of food is seductive and more than makes up for its less than tantalising appearance. Originally it is a provincial French dish made up of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions, but of course I shamelessly bastardised it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, every time I see a recipe I have this itching to fool around with it. It’s not arrogance; I know most people in the world who know anything about food are more capable of putting together a good recipe than I am. I think it’s more of a childlike craving to “play” with a recipe; like building a sandcastle then knocking it down. It’s a learning experience as well, if you adjust and tweak certain elements, you might just stumble across something wonderful. Isn’t that what experimental chefs have been doing for years? I’m not a chef; I’m just an idiot with an onion but that’s the reasoning.
So this is a meaty one, but you could just as easily substitute meat for other veggies like mushrooms. I also amended this recipe so it was less cheesy and less creamy in the vein attempt of making it healthy. Then I put a bottle of wine in it. So that failed. Spinach has been added for extra colour, flavour and muscle building super powers. I switched from Reblochon to Gruyere based on nothing but personal preference, despite the original recipe being fairly basic and specific I firmly argue that you can basically do what the hell you want with a dish like this and if it includes things you love chances are you will love it. For example, feel free to ignore the amount of garlic I have added to this. I am infatuated with the stuff, possibly possessed by it. If you had it early enough to a recipe that benefits from being cooked for a looooooooooooong time, it tastes amazing and your immune system will be singing little garlic-breath tunes for days.
700g charlotte potatoes
300g fresh spinach
1 tbsp butter
2 chicken stock cubes
1 large red onion
8 large garlic cloves
200g bacon lardons
Butter for greasing
200ml 0% crème fraiche (or sour cream or yoghurt or obviously cream if you want it!)
1 bottle of white wine (good enough to drink!)
600g chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Large handful fresh tarragon, rosemary, basil (only because I had it and it needed using)
However much cheese you want. I grated enough to top it, but if you want to add more to the sauce as well, be my guest.
Slice your potatoes as thinly as possible. You can use a mandolin if you have one and you want them really thin but it isn’t necessary. There isn’t really a cooking time for a dish like this, it can sit in the oven on a low heat for a really long time so if your potatoes slices are a bit thicker, just take that into account and cook it for a bit longer. Bare in mind if you are going to cook it for ages though, don’t add your cheese at the beginning. Take it out of the oven half way through cooking time then scatter cheese on, to avoid gnarly burnt bits…. unless you like them, then gnarl away.
Brown the chicken in a large casserole pot with a little butter and then add the stock cubes and the wine/ stock. Watch gleefully as your pan fills with smoky, winy goodness. Let it poach away for a while and then add the tarragon (and random basil) and season.
Whilst the chook is merrily bubbling away, fry the bacon lardons and onion. No need to add oil, the bacon oozes out it’s own fatty goodness and it’s more than enough to keep the pan lubricated. Add a good handful of rosemary to this mix and keep it frying away on a medium to low heat until it’s browned good and proper and starts to char.
Crush the garlic directly into the “cream” of choice, and mix together (I added a dollop of Dijon mustard to this mix because…. well Dijon needs no explanation, it’s awesome)
You want to let the chicken mixture bubble and cook until it’s reduced down a bit and thickened. If this isn’t happening on it’s own just whack a bit of cornflour in, that’ll do the job. Once it’s ready to assemble, add the bag of spinach to the chicken, pop the lid of the casserole dish and let it wilt down. After about a minute, take the lid off, stir the spinach in so it’s combined and then you can layer him up!
Butter the base and sides of an oven proof dish and then layer. There is absolutely no science or rules to this layering, but I went for potato, cream, chicken, bacon, and repeat. Grate your cheese on top and cook him on a about 120 fan oven for one hour (ish).
Serve with whatever greens you fancy. Cut into it and oozy, boozy, herby goodness will burst out from under the cheesy topping. It’s good. It’s not traditional Tartiflette, but it’s good.