Melting moments

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 January, 2010, 12:00am

At a dinner with food writer and television personality Anthony Bourdain, one of the dishes - from his Les Halles Cookbook - was tartiflette: a rich gratin of potato, onion, bacon and cheese. It was so good I've often made tartiflette at home using Bourdain's recipe.

Bourdain doesn't name the varieties of potato and onion he uses but he does specify the cheese - reblochon. Made from cow's milk in the Haute-Savoie alpine region of France, it's a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese and quite pungent. The colour of the velvety rind ranges from off-white (a little darker than that of camembert) to pale orange.

Reblochon is a delicious addition to a cheeseboard but its pungency means the cheese can stand out even in cooked dishes. For tartiflette, you need reblochon and potato in a ratio of about 1:2 (this is a decadent dish, not for dieters). Put whole potatoes (all the same size, for even cooking) in salted cold water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until they're cooked but still firm. Peel and cut them into cubes. Slice an onion and saute until soft and golden, then add diced pancetta and cook until brown. Stir in the potato, some white wine and salt and pepper and cook until most of the wine has been absorbed. Spread a layer of the potato mixture in a baking dish, top with reblochon that has been cut into small pieces, then repeat the layering. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown on top.

Reblochon is also delicious in quiche. Pre-bake a quiche shell (with sides no higher than 2cm), then make a custard by whisking egg with cream (or cream and milk), salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Cut some reblochon into small pieces and scatter it over the bottom of the quiche shell, then top with pancetta that's been cooked until pale golden. Pour over the custard mixture and bake until set - it should be a little wobbly at the centre.