Comfort Food, #Alpine Style
#Raclette, #Tartiflette, #Fondue. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably only heard of one of these dishes. Quelle dommage! You should make it a point to explore foodie sites to see what you’re missing. Perhaps, this post will whet your appetite.
Parisian friends, Jacques and Didem, invited Jim and me to join them for a short holiday between Christmas and New Years.
#Annecy was suggested, a charming town in the foothills of the French Alps on the shores of a pristine lake of the same name.
The region is Haute Savoie, an area once part of the Kingdom of Sardinia before France acquired it in 1860. #Geneva, Switzerland and its famed lake are approximately thirty kilometers to the north.
Having never been to that part of France before, we jumped at the chance. Europeans travel everywhere with pets, so we loaded our Golden Retriever in the car for the seven hour drive from Brussels. There was only one hitch, a sudden and heavy snowstorm. After fourteen hours in the car and the worst traffic we’ve ever experienced, we arrived at our destination. One bright spot, a fresh dusting of snow turned #Annecy into a winter wonderland, a magical, medieval fairy tale city.
We had lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Belvedere, that was a gastronomic delight–artistic and palate pleasing French cuisine at its best.
What about the comfort food I promised?
Although less glamorous, a Savoyard indulgence proved equally satisfying after a stroll along Lac d’Annecy on a crisp, clear day. In a restaurant decorated in #Alpine ski lodge motif, we found raclette, tartiflette and fondue.
Let’s take them one at a time, starting with the most familiar.
Fondue in its purest form is a pot of melted cheese in which diners equipped with long forks dip bread cubes and possibly potatoes. Key is the mix of cheese. In Haute Savoie, that usually means a combination of Beaufort, Comte and Gruyere cheeses to which a bit of white wine is added. Beware the diner who drops his bread into the communal font. No double dipping is allowed.
Tartiflette is a casserole of sorts made with a base of Reblochon cheese. Simple ingredients of lardons, onions and potatoes are added to the cheese and baked to a golden brown crust. A variation replaces smoked salmon for the lardons. As with fondue, a crisp green salad is the ideal accompaniment.
Raclette is a cheese as well as the name of the dish. The French verb, racler means to scrape and that’s what one does with this dish. Diners scrape melted cheese onto steaming hot potatoes. Traditional sides include cornichons, pickled onions and dried meat. While originally heated beside a fire, today raclette is best offered using an electric raclette machine found at most high-end kitchen supply stores or internet sites.
Introduced to raclette by European friends living in Chicago, Jim and I have hosted several raclette parties. We replace traditional accoutrements of gherkins and pickled onions with a variety of sides such as caramelized onions, pineapple, prosciutto, italian sausage and sautéed chicken tenders. Let your tastebuds guide your own menu.
So next time you crave comfort food, think beyond chili, pot roast and mashed potatoes. Travel to the Alps even if only in your own imagination and kitchen. Savor the creamy richness of raclette, tartiflette and fondue. Serve a crisp white wine although beer is just as good. Find a French station on Spotify and cuddle beside a fire. I guarantee that you’ll derive great comfort from #Alpine comfort food. Bon Appetit!