September, the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar, but the seventh in the Roman calendar from which it takes its name, is when the weather starts to cool.
Today, Meteorological Autumn is upon us. Astronomical Autumn has yet to come. But it is the month of blackberries, potatoes, courgettes, aubergines, onions, and tomatoes.
As the abundance of summer’s flowers and forage die off, milk tends to become grassier so real cheeses (rather than the mass produced versions) change in flavour. As the cold weather encroaches butterfat and proteins start to jump.
The beginning of Meteorological Autumn on September 1 also marks International Bacon Day. The celebration began in 2000 when a group of students in Massachusetts deemed the flavour so delicious that bacon deserved its own holiday. They were probably right.
The average temperature is now around 16°C and as the month progresses, temperatures will decrease even further. It’s time to start thinking about cooking some warming food, and what could be better than an unctuous bowl of Tartiflette. If you have a stomach for potatoes, bacon, and cheese then there is nothing like this dish that originated in the 18th-century but recently got a shot in its arm.
Nowadays the dish is traditionally made with Reblochon cheese because the marketers at Union Interprofessional Reblochon decided it would be a glorious way of boosting sales of this rich cow’s cheese.
I have decided, therefore, that it is no sacrilege to combine the other traditional ingredients with much easier to locate creamy tangy Brie. Mixed with the smoked bacon lardons and potatoes it makes for an unusual but no less appealing twist.
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 300g smoked lardons
- 1 thinly sliced large onion
- 5g fresh thyme leaves
- 284ml Double Cream
- 300ml milk
- 3.5cl white wine
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1kg thinly sliced potatoes, such as Albert Bartlett Roosters
- 250g thinly sliced Brie
- Preheat the oven to around 180°C and lightly grease an ovenproof dish of about 1.5-litre. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and lardons on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they start browning.
- Prepare the thyme leaves, keeping a few back for garnish. Place the herb, cream, and milk in a large saucepan. When this starts to simmer, add the potatoes, and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Prepare the lardons by sautéing with a knob of butter, add the sliced onions and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Then add the white wine and crushed garlic clove and cook for 3 minutes. Then add this sauté to the potatoes and season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Place half the potato infusion in the base of the prepared dish, and top with half the sliced cheese. Repeat, ensuring you finish with a layer of cheese.
- Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, and the top is golden and bubbling. Garnish with thyme and serve with a crisp green salad and chunks of Sour Dough bread.
You can assemble all of this so it’s ready for the final cooking several hours ahead of even the day before. When it’s cool, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until needed. Because you are cooking straight from the fridge, when you have removed the clingfilm cook for an hour (ie an extra 15 minutes).