Czech-style Tartiflette: Baked Potatoes with Smoked Pork Belly

The French are well known and very proud of their Gratin Dauphinoise. This traditional  dish is made of potatoes and crème fraiche and was founded in Historic Dauphine Region in south-east France.

There are many variations of this dish and one of them found its way into the traditional Czech cuisine. When going through cookery books I came across one called Tertiflette, which would most likely be the closest relative to the Czech variant – popular across families including mine for many many years.

The modern version of this dish (consisting of potatoes, cheese, lardons and onions) is like a big warm hug of deliciousness that conveys an image of traditional alpine food such as centuries-old  raclette and fondue. However, it’s not until you start looking into the history of the dish that you find out that instead of being an indigenous dish of the Savoy region of France, the tartiflette recipe was developed in the 1980s by the Le Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Reblochon to help boost the sagging sales of Reblochon cheese.

So here comes the big question: was it truly originated by the French or Czechs? I will leave it for you to decide.

Every family would cook this dish slightly differently and each will claim that their version is the tastiest. Over the years I’ve sampled it numerous times but my grandmother´s version beats them all… by miles!

PREP: 10 minutes     COOK: 50 minutes                                                                                        SERVES: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1kg of new potatoes (large or medium)
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 300gm of smoked pork belly or smoked diced pancetta
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml double cream
  • 150gm of grated Cheddar Cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ts mixture of dried herbs (also known as herbs de Provence)
  • nutmeg
  • 2 cubes of unsalted butter to grease inside of baking dish
  • 3 gherkins as a garnish (or summer salad)

Method:

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Salt the water generously. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook the potatoes until almost tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain and place the potatoes in a serving bowl and leave to cool down. Peel once cooled. As these are new potatoes, the skin should come off quite easily. Dice potatoes into ¾ inch size pieces.

Now for the pork: cut into 1/2 inch cubes. –n.b. if you go to the butchers, get yourself a nice generous piece of smoked pork belly!

These days you can purchase pre-diced pancetta, or alternatively, you can also use pork lardons (very similar).

Add one tablespoon of butter into the medium size skillet pan and melt it over medium heat. Then, add a thinly sliced onion. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes until softened, then uncover and cook for further 3 minutes until nice and golden in colour. Stir occasionally. Once sautéed, remove from the skillet pan, then flash-fry the meat over medium heat for 3 minutes (for texture only; it’ll cook properly in the oven soon!)

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200’C / Fan 180’C / Gas 6.

Whisk eggs in large bowl, add double cream and Provencal herbs and pinch of grated nutmeg. Whisk everything together.

Grease the gratin dish with butter and start layering all ingredients. Place one layer of diced potatoes at the bottom and sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper. Next is the mixed layer of sautéed onion and smoked pork belly. Pour 1/3 of the egg and cream mixture over the top, then repeat the process of layering until all ingredients have been used up (I usually do just two layers when potatoes are cut in cubes – if sliced, then you can add an extra layer). Finish the assembly with a final spread of potatoes.

Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for 15minutes 180’C / Fan 170’C / Gas 5.

After 15 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle some cheese. Pour the rest of the egg and cream mixture over the top as well. Place it back into the oven, increase the heat to 200’C / Fan 180’C / Gas 6 and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a few pickled gherkins in the side (or fresh summer salad).

Bon Appetite! Dobrou Chuť!

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