French Food on a budget: Cocottes Savoyardes

Another dish from the French Savoye region to remind you of your travels there. Preparations are very similar to Tartiflette. Stick to the recipe and it looks more impressive though. It also asks for a different cheese.

For this recipe stated 200 gr de fromage à raclette is needed, as well as a cocotte per person. A cocotte, as shown on the photo of the recipe, is a small casserole. Of course, it looks impressive if each person around your dining table receives his or her very own cocotte.

Posessing no cocottes, I used a large oven dish. There was no fromage á raclette in my fridge either, but a triangle of Danish blue cheese. Though Denmark being a long way from the Savoy – haute and basse – , I decided this cheese was going to end up in the dish.

Like many blue cheeses, this one has a distinct flavour you may not like, or you may be wary of all blue cheeses after reading how they’re made. Moreover, Daneblu crumbles and does not slice easily.

So you may prefer to hunt for fromage á raclette anyway, or stick to the cheese you prefer for your gratins. As usual: read the recipe through, before buying ingredients and preparing it. It’s slightly more complicated than the previous two, but don’t let this keep you from having a go.

Cocottes Savoyardes

The recipe is for 4 people, so a cocotte per person – or a large enough oven dish.
Preparation takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
You will need about 15 to 20 minutes to boil the potatoes.
The stuffed cocottes or oven dish will need another 20 to 30 minutes in the oven.
In the recipe, the oven is set at 180C but I set mine at 220C. You may also have to tinker with yours, depending on the cheese used.

Ingredients

1 kg of potatoes; use potatoes for cooking or making mash and steer clear of the kind used to make French fries.
75 cl milk if you want to boil your potatoes in this, otherwise just use water.
Lots of thyme.
Plenty butter to grease your cocottes or your oven dish plus a bit extra.
20 strips of bacon.
200 gr de fromage à raclette – so a soft cheese like for instance
25 cl crème fraiche – the recipe mentions the light, slightly more liquid version. I used a carton of 30 cl ordinary crème fraiche. You may want to add some water or white wine to make it more liquid, but I didn’t bother.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparations

Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut them in 0.5 mm thick slices according to this recipe. (Though I came across recipes asking for small cubes and even small balls. I cut my potatoes in small parts. )
Pour the milk in a pan and add the potatoes. Then add as much water so they are totally covered. (Or just boil the cut potatoes in enough water.)
Add some thyme and pepper and salt to taste.

Bring to the boil and let the potatoes simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Ensure they remain firm – you don’t need mash. Remove the pan from the fire and drain off the water. .

In the meantime, preheat your oven for about 10 minutes at 180C (or slightly higher).
Butter the cocottes, or your oven dish.
Lay your slices of thin bacon into the cocottes or oven dish with part of the bacon hanging over the rim.

(Some recipes will tell you to crack a raw egg in each cocotte now. The recipe I used did not, so I did not either.)
Fill each cocotte with slices of potato; or put the boiled potato mix into the oven dish.
If you are using cocottes, create layers of potatoes which you alternate with a sliver of cheese and thyme and end with cheese.
In my version, I crumbled the blue cheese on top of the potatoes and thyme mix.
Now pour the (slightly liquid) crème fraiche over your cocottes or oven dish and fold the overhanging strips of bacon back into the cocottes or oven dish.
Add pepper and salt to taste, as well as a dollop of butter in the centre of each cocotte.

Put the cocottes or oven dish in the oven.
Check after ten minutes to see if this dish needs longer or shorter, or a higher temperature.
After about 20 to 30 minutes your dish should be ready, as the cheese and crème fraiche have melted and turned slightly golden-brown, while the top bacon has turned crispy. Please ensure nothing is burnt.

Serve warm with a simple salad and a red or white wine, as well as slices of bread to mop up any sauce.

An afterthought: as with the previous two, this dish does not help you lose weight.

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