February in France is synonymous with holidays in the mountains. When it comes to winter pastimes in France, there are different types of people. Some believe that alpine skiing is the only worthwhile activity, while others think that cross-country skiing is the only way to enjoy the mountain. Some prefer snowshoeing with their family while others prefer spending their time relaxing in the mountain’s spas and resorts. There are also those who loop around and around for hours on the ice skating rink. It doesn’t matter which group you belong to, you will inevitably end the day in the same way: eating mountain cuisine. Mountain food is generally comforting, heavy, cheesy and delicious! If you are curious about European mountain food, read on!

Raclette


The word raclette stands for several things: a Swiss cheese dish, a cultural landmark, the name of a cheese, a table top appliance, a dining experience and always a great time! Back in the day, Swiss shepherds from the French-speaking region of Valais needed to carry food up to the Alps. This food had to be relatively cheap and it had to be something that wouldn’t spoil easily in the hot summer months. So the shepherds carried cheese and potatoes. While the potatoes were roasting, a big piece of cheese was set close to the fire. Once melted, the cheese was taken away and scraped onto the baked potatoes. This was not only filling and nourishing but also delicious. In French ‘to scrape’ translates to ‘racler’ and this is where the term raclette comes from. In addition to the potatoes, it’s common to serve raclette with charcuterie, such as saucisson, prosciutto and viande de grison. Cornichons and salade verte should also be on the table! Raclette is usually paired with white wine, such as Savoy wine. Riesling and pinot gris are also great options. In France you can find many different varieties of raclette cheese such as truffle cheese, black pepper, jalapeno etc… My personal favorite is smoked raclette cheese!

My tip: add tiny pieces of red onions, red bell peppers or mushrooms to the dish, it’s delicious! Raclette cheese made in Vermont can be a good option if you have trouble finding French or Swiss cheeses in New England.

Tartiflette


Tartiflette is a dish from the Savoy region in the French Alps and from the Aosta Valley. It is made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions. A splash of white wine can be added too. Tartiflette began appearing on restaurant menus in the ski resorts of the 1980s. It owes its popularity to the promotional efforts of Le Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Reblochon, who was trying to boost reblochon sales at the time. Tartiflette is usually paired with white wine, such as Savoy wine (Apremont, Roussette or Chignin-Bergeron).

My tip: It’s impossible to find reblochon in the US, so try the dish with taleggio cheese, it’s not the same taste but it’s definitely a good substitute. To make it vegetarian friendly just remove the lardons and add some champignons de Paris (button mushrooms).

 

Fondue Savoyarde


For most people around the world, fondue symbolizes Switzerland. It’s right up there with chocolate and precision watches. But for the French, cheese fondue is 100% Savoyarde, from France’s premier ski region. Back in the days when Alpine peasants enjoyed very few luxuries, cheese was one of their most precious treasures. Melting several cheeses together was a way to use leftover cheese, morsels that would have otherwise been wasted. An 18th-century cook would hardly recognize a modern fondue set. Although the popular caquelon (cast iron serving dish, with a convenient alcohol burner and color-coded forks) made for many successful soirées in the 1970s, the earliest fondue equipment consisted of more rustic material—often just a clay pot and glowing embers. While dunking, I suggest you plant the bread firmly onto the fork. If it falls off into the cheese, you’re sure to get a gage—an obligation to buy a round of drinks, kiss your neighbor, or worse, run (somewhat) naked through the snow. Better be sure your bread cube can survive a fondue dunk if you want your dignity to survive a fondue dinner or choose your compagnons de table wisely!

My tip: Follow the ABC rule, A for abondance, B for beaufort and C for comté. There is normally no charcuterie to go with a fondue, my opinion is why should I miss this opportunity to pair my 2 favorite péchés mignons? Add your favorite charcuterie with it! Fondue is generally paired with white wine but I prefer it with a brut sparkling wine. Give it a try! This is definitely my favorite mountain dish!

Aligot


Aligot is a dish made from cheese blended into mashed potatoes (often with some garlic) that comes from the Aubrac region of France (Aveyron, Cantal, Lozère, Occitanie), in the southern Massif Central. Traditionally made with Tomme de Laguiole or Tomme d'Auvergne cheese, aligot has become a national French speciality, much loved and often paired with Toulouse sausages or roast pork. Aligot is made from mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic, and melted cheese. The dish is ready when it develops a smooth, elastic texture. This dish was prepared for pilgrims on the way to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle who stopped for a night in that region. According to the legend, aligot was originally prepared with bread, and potatoes were substituted after their arrival in France. Today, it is enjoyed at village gatherings and celebrations as a main dish. Aligot is still cooked by hand in Aveyron homes and street markets. It is traditionally served with Auvergne red wine.

My tip: From all this list Aligot is the most complicated to make. You need a real savoir-faire, so my tip is: try it in a specialized restaurant. I would never try to make it at home.

Cancoillotte


Cancoillotte or Cancoyotte is a runny French cheese mainly produced in Franche-Comté. The cheese was first made in the village of Oyrières, near Champlitte, in Haute-Saône. It appeared around the 16th century. Cancoillotte is made from metton, a skimmed milk curd that is heated, stirred and pressed, salted and aged for five to six days. The metton is melted with water and butter. According to a legend from the Haut-Doubs plateau, Cancoillotte was first created during a brawl between two giants, Cancoillotte and Yotus. During the brawl, Yotus fell on the hearth and knocked over a pot of curdled milk. Its contents poured into the cauldron that was hanging above the fire. Cancoillotte, being the winner, naturally named the melted cheese after himself. It is a staple cheese in Franc-Comtois gastronomy. Eaten hot or cold as a cheese or as a spread, Cancoillotte is also used in many culinary recipes like roasted potatoes coated with Cancoillotte, quenelles with fresh cheese, or scrambled eggs à la franc-comtoise. It goes well with red, rosé, and white wines from the Jura region.

My tip: cancoillotte is the only dish on my list that is good for a diet; it is almost fat- and calorie-free. Bon appétit !

Where to find cheese in the area:
Trader Joe’s
Curds & co (Brookline)
Formaggio's (Cambridge and South End)
No luck with the local stores? You will find everything you want and much more with fromages.com They deliver from France to the US.

Where to find bubbly wines in the area:
Gordon’s Wine
For 15% off your purchase of any non-sale French wines through Gordonswine.com, contact Cultural Manager Clémence Bary Boloré via email (culture@frenchculturalcenter.org) to get the discount code.

Do you like aprés-ski meals? Do you have a favorite?






Clémence Bary-Boloré

Cultural Programs Manager / Head Receptionist / Office Manager

Clémence has a Master’s degree in Cultural Projects Management. She worked in Paris for several years for theater companies. She likes discovering new cultures, people and places, which is why she crossed the ocean to start a new experience in Boston. She is glad to be part of the French Cultural Center to promote French culture and language. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, kayaking and all forms of art!

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