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Butter, cheese, cream, sugar – all things nice

It’s cold in Toronto. Very cold. And dark. All I want to do is stay in bed under the covers and read. Failing that, eat comforting, warm food. Which is exactly what we did last night. Neil is part of a team of chefs cooking a special dinner (auctioned at a Rotary charity event) next weekend and he is responsible for some side dishes and entrees and wanted to test some out this weekend. Since it IS so cold, I thought of Véronique’s tartiflette – perfect for the dark days of January…

Tartiflette is (in layman’s terms) basically a potato, bacon, cream, onion and CHEESE gratin. The feature that makes it special is the Reblochon cheese which is not that easy to come by in Toronto, so we did have to substitute (sorry, Véro!) with some other soft-washed rind cheeses. Verdict? It was delicious but it DID lack the characteristic nutty taste of the Reblochon. For the special dinner, we’re off on the quest to find some today…

First, we fried up the onions and bacon:


And added them to a layer of cooked potatoes in the casserole dish:


A layer of crème fraîche (substitute again – sour and heavy cream mixed) with chives and white wine:


Another layer of each and then top it off with (what looks like a ridiculous amount of) cheese:


Pop into the oven at 425F for around 40 minutes:


Mmmm – bubbling cheesy deliciousness!


(Note: I served it with broccoli for some semblance of healthy!)

Definitely a make-again dish and you could totally make this much more healthy by using low or no-fat sour cream (sorry Véro!) and lower fat cheeses. (Note from Neil: Why bother?) A small portion of this would be a delicious accompaniment to any meat dish whilst a slightly larger portion is fine for a main. LOVE this!

Neil Update: In our quest for Reblochon, we tried The Cheese Boutique – likely the best cheese emporium in the city, if not the province. Unfortunately, at the moment it cannot be imported into Canada. (Time to rail on about supposed “health” regulations that favour chemicals in North America over natural products and honest bacteria, but that’s another guest post…) The cheesemonger recommended a Quebec artisanal organic cheese called “Champlain”. It’s apparently made by a French cheesemaker who did Reblochon, and has since moved here. So apart from the regional differences of cows and the like…made in the same way. So I’ll provide an update next week as to how this works out.


Next up in the kitchen, since why stop at ONE dairy extravaganza, was Elle à Table’s version of La Laitière’s petits pots à la crème. I just happened to have brought back a large quantity of Carambar from France


and as luck would have it, I had also received some wonderful Tahitian and Madagascan vanilla pods from Justin at Marx Foods to try out so I was all set up to make the caramel and vanilla versions.


I chose the Tahitian over the Madagascan pods, since, according to the information I received from Justin, they “possess a fruity and floral aroma that some chefs, perfume makers and aromatherapists prize.” To my (untrained) nose, they certainly were more floral – the Madagascan ones smelled somehow earthier.


You start off by heating the milk with either the vanilla pod or Carambar:




Then take them off the heat and add the cream, letting them sit for 10 minutes:




Meanwhile, beat your egg yolks and sugar:



(Making full use of our new digital scale and Cuisinart immersion blender/whisker/chopper that we just purchased as a New Year’s gift for the kitchen.)

Then pour the milk/cream mixture onto the egg/sugar:


You can see it start to thicken immediately.

Then you cook them in a bain marie for about 30 minutes (and yes, I KNOW the pot size here is different so might have affected the cooking time but it didn’t seem to…)


And voilà – Nestlé, eat your heart out..



“But how do they taste?” I hear you ask…


Actually, JUST like the real thing! The Carambar one was a little sweet for our adult palates so if I made them again, I might use 3, not 4 sticks for that quantity of milk/ cream. The vanilla one was delightful and we wondered if we might freeze it for a creamy, kind of ice-cream… Hmmm…


(and yes, I DO own a Barbapapa spoon….)

Note from Mardi: For the record, Neil has a Le Petit Prince one!

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23 Responses to Butter, cheese, cream, sugar – all things nice

  1. Chow and Chatter January 10, 2010 at 18:35 #

    oh wow yummy French food, stay warm love Rebecca

  2. Megan January 10, 2010 at 19:16 #

    Yum yum! And is that a little yogurt pot from Paris? I covet those things; you're the second blogger I've seen use them.

    And I want a Le Petit Prince spoon!

  3. Fresh Local and Best January 10, 2010 at 19:26 #

    All of these dishes look so wonderfully comforting and delightful! The information on the Champlain cheese is interesting, looking forward to hearing more about it!

  4. doggybloggy January 10, 2010 at 19:40 #

    nice couple of posts – I have so many vanilla beans I dont know what to do with them but I'll tell you what, this sounds like a nice place to start.

  5. lk (Healthy Delicious) January 10, 2010 at 20:09 #

    that gratin looks amazing, and I love the little glasses you used for the pots a la creme!

  6. French Cooking for Dummies January 10, 2010 at 20:26 #

    Neil's tartiflette looks awesome! I'm curious now, I might have to experiment a little more with other kinds of cheese!
    And, oh, thanks for the tip on the carambar quantity. I also own that issue of Elle à Table and have been drooling over this recipe since I bought it ;-)
    Cheers,

    Véro

  7. K a b l o o e y January 10, 2010 at 22:01 #

    I have to concede that you scared me a little. I read the title and was kind of dreading how sugar was going to infiltrate the cheesy, oniony, bacony goodness pictured. Was relieved to learn there were two dishes.
    I'd like to take to my bed with a crock of the tartiflette.

  8. Bromography January 10, 2010 at 22:16 #

    It looks sinfully delicious!

  9. Alicia January 10, 2010 at 23:35 #

    The tartiflette was very yummy as left-overs for lunch this afternoon too! So good… time to check out French Food for Dummies and test it out in my own kitchen. Thanks for the yummy lunch this aft!

  10. Dinners & Dreams January 11, 2010 at 02:47 #

    This looks delicious!! I read your profile and saw that you too are a French teacher and foodie. I was amused by that:)

    Bonne année!

    Nisrine

  11. Travel Eat Love January 11, 2010 at 03:21 #

    Yum, everything looks gorgeous!

  12. Cookin' Canuck January 11, 2010 at 03:54 #

    Now that's what I call comfort food! That tarteflette looks absolutely gorgeous.

  13. Cookin' Canuck January 11, 2010 at 03:55 #

    P.S. Your recipe got my vote!

  14. The Best Family January 11, 2010 at 04:49 #

    wow, both of these look luscious, and i am feeling like i need to get on the treadmill just reading about them! perfect winter comfort food. :)

  15. penny aka jeroxie January 11, 2010 at 13:01 #

    Looks so good. I am feeling so hungry before bedtime. This makes me miss winter.

  16. Evelyne@Cheap Ethnic Eatz January 11, 2010 at 14:46 #

    I can,t pick, will have to get a bite of both lol

  17. Conor @ HoldtheBeef January 11, 2010 at 14:46 #

    Wow, that DOES look like a ridiculous amount of cheese. A ridiculously awesome amount of cheese. Curious to hear how the new cheese works out. I wonder how many more times I can use the word cheese in this comment. Cheese.

  18. Tasty Eats At Home January 11, 2010 at 19:29 #

    I think I just gained 5 lbs reading this post! Looks delicious. Majorly delicious.

  19. Divina Pe January 12, 2010 at 14:07 #

    Ooohhh, yum. Can I have lunch and dinner at your house one day? :D

  20. myblissfulbites January 12, 2010 at 15:33 #

    Oh your tartiflette looks so luscious. I can't stand the ridiculous cheese importing regulations!

  21. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite January 13, 2010 at 02:07 #

    Rebecca – thanks!

    Megan – yes, they were carefully packed and brought home!

    Fresh Local – let's hope the Champlain works out – it would be good to have an alternative!

    doggybloggy – use your vanilla in these – it's great!

    lk – I know, the little pots really make it!

    Véronique – make the petits pots! You will love them!

    Kablooey – thought you would like this post ;-)

    Bromography – indeed!

    Alicia – you are most welcome!

    Dinner and Dreams – thanks for stopping by!

    traveleatlove – thanks. yummy and warming!

    Cooking Canuk – t'is the season for dishes like this!

    Best Family – well as long as you don't eat ALL of the gratin and all the pots…

    penny – I don't think you would so much like our winter….

    Evelyne – you would love both these dishes!

    Conor – you're so…. cheesey!

    Tasty Eats – thanks!

    Divina – any time!

    my blissful bites – Don't even get us started about the cheese importing regulations….

  22. Delana February 21, 2010 at 09:37 #

    I just found your blog while searching for a substitute for Reblochon in tartiflette. Love it…thank you. I’m now a subscriber.

    I can’t imagine there can be a REAL substitute that gives it that wonderful crust and creamy middle but if you found it, let me know. I want to publish my recipe for readers in the U.S. and I don’t want to bait them without giving them a decent option. So did Champlain fill the bill?

    My next cooking attempt will be those lovely pots de crème. I adore Carambar and now have another excuse to eat it.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 21, 2010 at 13:22 #

      Hi Delana and thanks for subscribing! Glad you found us! Yes the Champlain was an excellent substitute – if you have a great cheese store near you they should be able to recommend something similar that you can get locally.

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