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Ultimate Mountain Winter Food

Cold weather, high altitude, cheese

In the Alps of France, a Danish friend explained the term ‘deftig,’which is German, by pointing to the heavy food we were eating. It was January and we were out in the weather most of the day and part of the night making snow sculpture. Deftig is what we craved; what we crave on a cold winter night. Deftig is beef stew, goulash, fondue – stuff with meat, potatoes, and in the alps, cheese. We experienced the ultimate in deftig after a cross-country ski in the town of Pralognan-la-Vanoise and its called tartiflette. Since then we’ve recreated this great dish at home, and found a pizzeria that serves a tartiflette pizza.

In Denver, our January tartiflette was served with a wintery spinach salad (with balsamic vinaigrette) and the remainder of the bottle (1/4 cup went into the casserole) of a crisp Argentinian Torrontes.


You’ll need to find reblochon, or a soft mountain-style (nutty, wildflower/herb aroma) cow-milk cheese if you must substitute.

1/2 lb. reblochon cheese
3/4 lb. potatoes
1 tbs. butter
1/4 onion
2 slices ham (optional)
4 tbs. cream
2 tbs. yogurt
1/4 cup white wine

Par-boil 3/4 lb. of fingerling potatoes whole for 10 minutes. Drain, pour over them 1/4 cup of white wine. Sauté about 1/4 of an onion in 1 tbs. butter in a stove- and oven-going casserole, cut 2 slices of ham – we used a really great ham bought from the butcher at Denver Urban Homesteadding – into bite size pieces. Use a slotted spoon to place remove the potatoes and slice them into the sauté.

Cut the cheese wheel into demi-circles, then in half through the thickness. Cut the 1/2 circles again to fit your casserole. Place the cheese so the rind is up and soft cheese is touching the potatoes. Mix 4 tbs of cream and 2 tbs of yogurt in the bowl the potatoes came from, with what remains of of the wine. Pour this mixture on top of everything in the casserole.

As you can see, we’d split everything between two serving size au gratin pans. These should be heated until everything is bubbling on the stove top, and then baked in the 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is a deep golden brown.

Tomorrow, remember to go out for a good, long ski.

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