One of the lovely things about being passionate about food is the little adventures and knowledge quests this passion takes me on. Sometimes just a word, a phrase, or an image is enough to spark interest and further research.
The Age's restaurant critic, Larissa Dubecki, recently reviewed Embrasse in Carlton and this sentence caught my eye: "... a truly memorable side dish called aligot, a cheesy potato mash from the south of France so voluptuously gooey that it needs to undergo a double-spooned twirly ritual at the table to transport it from the copper pot to the plate. It's the comfort food that dreams are made of."
I've never tasted aligot before but the thought of a rich, cheesy potato mash was irresistible. I immediately started searching the Internet for recipes. Coincidentally, I'm going through a French cooking phase at the moment (as I have finally, after many years of wanting to, started French classes, so I'm immersing myself in all things French) and had several French cookery books from the library in the house. Voila! Here, in The Food of France, was a recipe for aligot. It is an unbelievably easy dish but oh, so decadent! It has been so hard to return to plain mashed potatoes after this feast for the palate.
This cheesy, potato puree is a specialty of the Auvergne region.
800g floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons milk
300g Cantal (or substitute mild Cheddar cheese), grated
Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender. Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Mash the potatoes and use a food ricer, potato mill or push through a sieve to give a really smooth puree.
Return the potato puree to the saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Add the garlic butter and milk. Mix together well and add the cheese in handfuls, beating to mix in the cheese, which will melt and make the mixture stretchy. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Recipe from The Food of France: a journey for food lovers, Murdoch Books, 2000.