When it comes to sharing dishes based on melted cheese dishes, the one that everyone knows is a fondue. I, personally, am rather partial to a fondue and since moving out to the French/Swiss border I have eaten rather a lot of them (I ate them back when I lived in Cardiff as well, but not quite so often). While my love of fondue is not waning, I thought that maybe it was time for me to try out some new melted cheese meal options. The two I opted for were Aligot and a Baked Mont D’Or.
Aligot de L’Aveyron
Aligot is hearty dish made from a mixture of potatoes, garlic and cheese. It originated in the L’Aubrac region in the Pyrenees. While this dish has humble origins (it was originally made by monks to feed weary pilgrims) it has since become a dish for celebrations and gatherings.
The communal preparation of the dish at such celebrations, combined with its extremely stringy texture when finished, have earned it the nickname “ruban de l’amitié” (ribbon of friendship).
While visually this dish looks pretty similar to a fondue, it’s actually much closer to mashed potato so you don’t want to be dipping any bread into it. It’s usually served as a side dish with either roast pork or sausage.
I was a bit lazy and bought my Aligot pre-prepared then reheated it at home. But it’s actually a pretty straight forward dish to make.
For four persons you need 1kg of potatoes (traditionally Bintje), 2 cloves of garlic, 400g of fresh Tomme cheese (or Cantal or a mild Cheddar, you don’t want anything too strong) and 200g of crème fraiche.
Peel the garlic and the potatoes and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Boil the potatoes and the garlic till the potatoes are soft. Drain, remove the garlic and mash the potatoes. Add the crème fraiche. Grate the cheese and then slowly incorporate into the creamy mash, stirring all the time while it melts. It’s ready when it forms a “ribbon” when lifted with the spoon i.e. when it’s nice and stringy!
Making this for four, the stirring needs a bit of effort, but is not too difficult. However when you see the size of the pots they make at celebrations you can understand why they might need a few friends to help out!
Baked Mont D’Or
Having been produced for around 200 years in the Jura region of both countries, Mont D’Or is a cheese claimed by the French and the Swiss (it’s called Vacherin Mont D’Or in Switzerland and is made with pasteurized milk as opposed to the unpasteurized French version).
It’s completely seasonal, only being produced and available for sale in the “winter” (you can buy the French one from September to May) when the cows produce less milk with a different fat profile compared to the summer milk. The summer milk from the same cows is used to make Comté (or Gruyere on the Swiss side).
I like to think of Mont D’or as the original baked camembert and a cheat’s fondue – no grating required and it comes in its own box ready to be cooked and enjoyed!
A washed rind cheese, it’s shaped by a spruce hoop that also adds to the “outdoorsy” flavour of the cheese. When ripe, it’s often already runny and delicious inside even at room temperature. Baking with white wine and garlic just enhances the loveliness that lies within and warms things up a bit. I would say that overall the taste is a bit stronger and more pungent than a fondue, it’s also an extremely rich cheese, but if you’re a cheese lover like me it’s a real treat.
For a small Mont D’Or (which serves 2 apparently, although I can eat a whole one myself!) you just need 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic (sliced) and 50mls of white wine. Cut a few slits in the top of the cheese and push the garlic into them. Pour over the white wine and then bake everything in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200C (or longer if your cheese has been in the fridge). Et voila, beautiful, gooey, tasty, hot cheese ready to be dipped into!
As well as bread, I like to serve mine with gherkins and meats. I find that the smokiness of some saucisson goes particularly well!